FRIDaY, JaNUaRY 1, 2016 • Vol. 18, No. 39 • FREE


Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.



Families surprised with gifts for Christmas
by Carla Parker

From left, Stephanie Rockmore and Keischa Robinson of Blessings On Wheels shop for toys to give to children on
Christmas day. Photos by Carla Parker

On Christmas morning, Stephanie Rockmore and
her Blessings On Wheels team were not rushing to the
Christmas tree to see what Santa brought.
They were in the streets surprising children and
families in need with toys and other gifts. The GrantA-Wish for Christmas event is an annual tradition
Blessings On Wheels (B.O.W.) has done since 2009.
“It has truly grown—just grown in numbers as
well as great spirits, and people coming aboard after
they hear what Blessings On Wheels is doing,” said
Blessings On Wheels is a nonprofit organization
that provides hot meals to the homeless and gives to
those in need throughout the year. Every Christmas,
the organization finds families who have fallen on
tough times and are unable to buy toys for children.
“Since our very first year we have helped more
families, our sponsorship has grown and it has just
been God,” Rockmore said. “God has truly had his
hand in it. We went from having it at [Malcolm Cunningham’s car dealership in Decatur] to having it at
an event hall. This year, we’re truly blessed to go out
and knock on the doors to surprise six families with

See Gifts on Page 13A

Left, DeKalb County interim Police Chief James Conroy talks about a shooting at a sheriff’s deputy’s home. Center, Sheriff Jeffrey Mann vows to crack down on gang-related crime. Right,
Deputies stage a safety checkpoint in Lithonia in August. Photos by Andrew Cauthen

$5K reward for info about shooting at deputy’s home
by Andrew Cauthen


he DeKalb County Sheriff ’s Office is offering a $5,000 reward
for information leading to the
arrest of those involved in the recent
shooting at a deputy’s Lithonia home.
On Dec. 15, a sheriff ’s deputy and
his wife were the victims of a shooting at their home of “14 peace-filled


FREEPRESS 1-1-16.indd 1

years,” said DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey L. Mann.
No one was injured when six bullets struck the deputy’s home and one
hit the marked patrol vehicle, said
Mann during a news conference announcing the award while surrounded
by other law enforcement officials
including interim DeKalb Police Chief
James Conroy.
“The perpetrators are still at large,”

‘[We] are looking for you if you are guilty
of these crimes. And with the offering
of the reward, others will be looking for
you as well. You will be found and will be

- Sheriff Jeffrey L. Mann

See Lithonia on Page 13A




12/29/15 10:23 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


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The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


New commissioners to be
sworn in
Commissioners-elect Brian
Fisher and Adela Yelton will be
sworn in to the Avondale Estates
Board of Mayor and Commissioners Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m. at city hall, 21
North Avondale Plaza. For more
information, visit


commercial zoning districts.
Chamblee now allows craft
breweries, where beer is brewed
and packaged for distribution. Art
shops are businesses that provide art
instruction in painting or sculpture
and enable patrons to bring their
own wine or beer to consume inside
the business. Chamblee also will
permit on-premise sale of alcohol
at a performance art facility, which
is defined as a theater or venue that
offers live music, plays, or other
dramatic arts. Chamblee’s new code
allows the sale of “growlers”–sanitized reusable containers of to-go
beer–from certain businesses.



City to swear in new mayor

City to hold inauguration and
state of city address

Michael Jacobs will conduct the
swearing-in ceremony of Mayorelect John Ernst as well as Council
members Linley Jones and Bates
Mattison on Jan. 4, at 10:30 a.m.
in City Council Chambers, 4362
Peachtree Road. The public is invited to attend, and light refreshments
will be served. For more information, visit

‘Bring One for the Chipper’
The city of Chamblee and Keep
Chamblee Beautiful invite residents
to “Bring One for the Chipper”
on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, from 9
a.m. to 1 p.m. at Chamblee’s Public
Works Facility, 3210 Cumberland
Dr., Chamblee.
This event offers a free, easy and
ecofriendly way for Chamblee residents to dispose of Christmas trees.
Residents dropping off their
trees in Chamblee will receive a free
tree seedling, along with fruit and
vegetable seeds for their spring garden. There also will be free desserts
and hot apple cider.

City makes changes to alcohol
Chamblee recently approved
updates to Chapter 6 of the Chamblee Ordinance, which regulates
businesses that sell and serve alcoholic drinks. The mayor and city
council adopted language permitting craft breweries, art shops and
performance art facilities in certain

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The inauguration of Lithonia’s
mayor and council members will
be held Jan. 4, 6:30 p.m. at Lithonia
City Hall, 6920 Main Street. Councilmember-elect Fred Reynolds,
re-elected mayor Deborah Jackson and councilmember Shameka
Reynolds will be sworn in. Afterwards, Jackson will give the state of
the city address. For more information, call (770) 482-8136.

DeKalb Finance Department
receives award
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recently
awarded the DeKalb County Finance Department with a certificate
of achievement for excellence in
financial reporting for its 2014 comprehensive annual financial report.
This is the 40th consecutive year
that the DeKalb Finance Department has earned this distinction.
“The certificate of achievement
is the highest form of recognition
in governmental accounting and
financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government
and its management,” said Stephen
Gauthier, director of the GFOA
Technical Services Center.
DeKalb’s Finance Department,
led by interim Chief Financial Officer Gwen Brown-Patterson,
received the certificate, as well as
an award of financial reporting

Page 3A


Nonprofit group hands out

Standing from left, East Metro Orchids
members Lois Keith, Iranetta Willis,
ShaRonda McRae and Steen Miles join
some of the residents of the Rising Star
Nursing Home in Stone Mountain. Photos

$9,000 in grants
The Community Center of
South Decatur (CCSD) recently
provided $9,000 in local community
grants Dec. 21.  Grant funding was
generated by the organization’s Barbecue Blues and Bluegrass Festival
held each August.    
The Community Center of
South Decatur grant recipients for
2015 are Decatur Education Foundation, Woodland Gardens, Decatur
Preservation Alliance/MLK Jr. Service Project, Global Growers, National Association on Mental Illness
- DeKalb Chapter, and Our House. 
Founded in 1979, the Community Center of South Decatur is a
nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and maintain The
Solarium at Historic Scottish Rite as
a sustainable community resource
to be used for the assistance, education and enjoyment of the Decatur
Pictured in the photo are Kate
Baltzell of Woodland Gardens; Barbecue Blues and Bluegrass Festival
chairman Michael Vajda of Synertia
Partners; Decatur Commissioner
Brian Smith; Paul Mitchell, MLK
service project chairman; Cindy
Weiss, Solarium executive director;
and Scot Hollonbeck, CCSD board

East Metro Orchids member ShaRonda
McRae brought her sons, Terron, Devon
and Brandson, who pitched in to help
spread holiday cheer and learn the importance of sharing.

Holiday cheer spread by
nonprofit group
Members of the East Metro
Orchids spread holiday cheer and
presented stockings filled with gifts
to the residents of the Rising Star
Nursing Home in Stone Mountain
on Dec. 22.
Each resident was given a Santa’s helper hat along with a stocking
stuffed with gifts such as toiletry
items, peppermints, socks and
footies. Holiday songs and a prayer
also were a part of the event.
 The East Metro Orchids,
whose president is state Rep. Dee
Dawkins-Haigler, is a social/
civic organization of professional
women living in DeKalb, Rockdale,
Newton and Gwinnett counties.

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The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 4A

Stuff of the Year 2015
It’s been a really busy
news year in DeKalb. We were
in the news for one investigation or another many weeks in
2015. State leaders are tired of
hearing the name of “DeKalb
County.” And some fed-up
businesses and residents
couldn’t take it anymore and
simply left the county.
Here my list of the 2015
Stuff of the Year that people
were talking about.
Document of the Year:
The so-called Mike Bowers report. In March, interim DeKalb County CEO
Lee May hired, at a cost of
$850,000, Bowers, a former
state attorney general, et al., to
investigate the employees and
departments of the CEO and
root out government corruption. The Bowers team took
no prisoners, wrote a letter
calling DeKalb “rotten to the
core” and a preliminary report
that called for May to resign.

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Andrew Cauthen

Managing Editor


May remains in his position.
Failed deal of the Year:
The Atlanta United soccer
facility deal. It started off as
a Memorial Drive economic
development plan that would
have brought the headquarters and practice field of
Atlanta United major league
soccer franchise to DeKalb
County. It became a political
soccer match with three commissioners pitted against four

commissioners and May. It
ended with a mutual agreement that it would cost too
much to get the former landfill ready for construction.
Worst neighborhood of
the Year: Brannon Hill condominium complex. Conditions
are deplorable, sickening and
embarrassing at this complex
off of Memorial Drive. Filled
mostly with refugees and other immigrants, building after
building of the complex is
burned out, in terrible disrepair or boarded up. Community meetings, a government
task force and media attention
have not yet fixed the decadeold problems there. Maybe
2016 will bring change there.
School official of the Year:
Mike Thurmond. When he
took over as interim school
superintendent in 2013,
the DeKalb County School
District was a mess. Several
school board members had

been suspended by the governor, the district’s finances
were screwed up, and its accreditation was threatened.
Thurmond and his team
stabilized the district and got
it ready for a permanent superintendent. Now people are
wondering what Thurmond,
the state’s former labor commissioner, will do next. Run
for county CEO?
Election of the Year: District commission seat. Two
years. That’s how long the
DeKalb County District 5
commission seat was vacant.
That’s how long the residents
of that district complained
about not being represented.
The seat officially became
vacant in May upon the resignation of then-Commissioner
May after he was appointed
the interim DeKalb CEO by
Gov. Nathan Deal, following the indictment and suspension of DeKalb County

CEO Burrell Ellis. Attorney
Mereda Davis Johnson, wife
of Congressman Hank Johnson, won the long-awaited
Cityhood movement of
the Year: Tucker. The cityhood movements of Briarcliff,
Lakeside and Tucker fought
over the Promised Land of the
Northlake community. Briarcliff and Lakeside supporters joined forces in the new
proposed LaVista Hills city,
but voters did not approve the
proposed city.
The proposed cities of
Greenhaven, which would be
the second largest in the state,
and Stonecrest haven’t made it
to the voters yet.
Tucker, which many
people already thought was
a city, was approved and will
incorporate in 2016.
Happy New Year and I
look forward to the stuff 2016
brings us all.

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The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 5A


Shake your sheriff’s hand
Among many sources of
pride in being Southern is
witnessing the frequent gratitude, courtesy and respect
paid here to our men and
women in uniform. A recent
run through HartsfieldJackson Airport included a
warm, thoughtful and sincere
taped message of thanks and
greetings to America’s military from Atlanta’s Mayor
Kasim Reed.  And that is as
it should be.
Yet I can also recall from
my childhood, the different
and less welcoming treatment given to our returning
Vietnam era veterans.  While
those less-than-courteous
recollections are now a bit
hazy for me, they remain
crystal clear for those who
suffered that ill treatment.
Bill Huff, a retired Columbus, Ga. businessman
and decorated Vietnam War
vet, once painted a vivid
portrait for me of his return
stateside following his second tour of duty. Nearing
his second day of transit on
a military cargo craft and his
last leg home on a domestic
commercial craft to Orlando,
traveling in the same uniform, he described the family
sharing his row on the flight
turning their backs and not
recognizing or speaking to
him. Welcome home, soldier.
I am more recently sensing some similar ill treat-

Bill Crane


ment, also not warranted,
gaining a head of steam toward another group of men
and women in uniform, our
thousands of law enforcement personnel across this
country. Criminal justice
analysts are starting to speak
of a dual-edged “Ferguson
effect” causing police, deputies, troopers and correction officers alike to second
guess themselves, at the same
time that angry crowds and
packs of mobile phones are
beginning to swarm even
the most basic arrests and
crime scenes, impeding and
sometimes blocking law enforcement professionals from
doing their job to serve and
Since 2010, it has been
reported that in 184 instances in Georgia, police shootings have ended in fatalities,
with a victim either unarmed

or shot in the back. I in no
way belittle or wish to minimize those injuries or loss
of life, and rogue cops need
to be identified and weeded
out of the system. However,
among Georgia’s more than
500 law enforcement agencies, across that same fiveyear span, how many thousand criminals were correctly
apprehended, prosecuted and
are now doing time?
Having witnessed more
than a few crime scenes, and
even a couple of mass murderers in flight (during my
reporting years), I can clearly
attest that I never witnessed
an assailant or suspect running toward law enforcement. In every attempt to
escape or allude capture, they
were running away, with
their backs towards the good
guys. When shots were fired,
typically they were in the direction of a fleeing suspect’s
back.  Real bad guys prefer
simply to get the hell out of
Dodge. Only in the movies
do the two sides face off, dialogue and then exchange fire.
In a year’s time the number of Georgia highway fatalities will number in the hundreds, most due to distracted
driving or impaired driving,
and yet no one is protesting
in the streets to end the use
of smart phones, or to extend
the death penalty for DUI
resulting in vehicular homi-

Entry-level police and
corrections officers as well
as sheriff deputies make
less than Georgia’s school
teachers, whom we almost
universally consider underpaid. The job of a cop or a
deputy comes at all hours,
365 days a year and while the
threat of violence committed
against those in uniform is
multiplying. From a routine
traffic stop to a domestic
dispute gone violent, our
men and women in brown
and blue must at all times
be prepared for situations to
rapidly deteriorate and head
south, forcing life and death
decisions to be made in a
matter of seconds.
Which brings me back
to the good guys. They are
far from perfect, but like
the soldier, they deserve
our thanks. Say hello, salute, wave and smile at your
neighborhood beat cop.
Shake your sheriff ’s or area
deputy’s hand and ask what
you can do to help make
your community safer.
Or instead, forget that
blue and brown lives also
matter, presume that a uniform simply means a better
dressed bully seeking his or
her next opportunity for unjustified brutality, and then
witness the declining pool of
recruits signing up for Police
Academy. When that next

mass shooting, jail break,
armed robbery or burglary
of your own home happens,
who ya gonna call?  Ghost
Busters? Saying thank you is
free, and never under-estimate the power of a smile.
Bill Crane also serves
as a political analyst and
commentator for Channel
2’s Action News, WSB-AM
News/Talk 750 and now 95.5
FM, as well as a columnist
for The Champion, Champion Free Press and Georgia
Trend. Crane is a DeKalb
native and business owner,
living in Scottdale. You can
reach him or comment on
a column at bill.csicrane@

Let Us Know What You Think!
THE CHAMPION FREE PRESS encourages opinions from its readers. Please
write to us and express your views. Letters
should be brief, typewritten and contain
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Send Letters To Editor, The Champion Free Press, P.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions written by columnists and contributing editors do not necessarily
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advertisement at any time. The Publisher is not
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The Champion Free Press is published
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(404) 373-7779 x 110

We sincerely appreciate the
discussion surrounding this and any
issue of interest to DeKalb County.
The Champion was founded in 1991
expressly to provide a forum for
discourse for all community residents
on all sides of an issue. We have no
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FREEPRESS 1-1-16.indd 3

12/29/15 10:23 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016

Kathryn Wright
When Kathryn Wright
moved to Stone Mountain in
1971 from Ohio, she wanted
to get to know the community and the people in the
“I was new to the South
and I felt the best way to really get to know the people
was to join some of the organizations,” Wright said.
She first joined the Stone
Mountain Women’s Club,
which is now the General
Federation of Women’s Clubs
Stone Mountain Woman’s
Club. Club members are involved in many community
“I found them all very
welcoming,” Wright said.
Wright said the women’s

club developed a group called
Friends of Sue B. Kellogg Library.
“So I became involved
with that,” she said.
Then she became involved with the Stone Mountain Village Visitor Center.
“Through [the visitor
center] I went—as a volunteer—to the Stone Mountain
Historical Society,” she said.
“We were at that point of obtaining one of the old houses
in Stone Mountain. I was in
charge of building it up. That
was exciting for me to do
She then became involved with the Stone Mountain Community Garden.
“I’m still involved with


Page 6A

all of those [organizations],
which is kind of nice,” she
Wright is also a charter
member of Corpus Christi
Catholic Church in Stone
Mountain where she is an eucharistic minister.
“We are allowed to give
out communion to the parishioners during mass,” she
Wright said volunteering
with different organizations
has helped her to get to know
people in the area.
“When you’re new to a
whole state volunteering is
the best way to find out who
the people are and how really
friendly the Southern people
are,” she said.

If you would like to nominate someone to be considered as a future Champion of the Week, please contact Andrew Cauthen
at or at (404) 373-7779, ext. 117.

Atlanta Hawks renew community partnership
The Atlanta Hawks made an appearance at
the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
(MJCCA) on Dec. 5 for an opening night kickoff
event for MJCCA’s Youth Basketball program.
The event featured a live streaming of the
SEC Championship game with Florida Gators
and Alabama Crimson Tide, coaching clinics,
cheerleaders and a raffle for Atlanta Hawks game
In addition to kicking off the youth basketball program, the event marked a renewed
partnership between the MJCCA and the Atlanta
Hawks organization, which will run through
“The MJCCA is thrilled to be partnering
with the Atlanta Hawks as the official sponsor of
youth sports and camps for another five years,”
MJCCA Chief Program Officer Jared Powers
Powers said, “The MJCCA and the Atlanta
Hawks have developed a partnership that enhances the MJCCA’s existing youth sports programs, and expands the reach for participants, to
enable us to build on programs that emphasize
life lessons and core values through sports.”
According to Jon Babul of the Atlanta
Hawks, “The fourth great year of our partnership
with the MJCCA enables the Hawks to continue
to impact the Atlanta community, both philanthropically and through innovative and educational sports programs which benefit youth,
coaches and parents.”
The organizations have scheduled several activities for youngsters, which started Dec. 30 and
continues throughout the summer.
On Jan. 16, each player who registers for the
MJCCA’s Youth Basketball program will receive a
ticket to the game as the Hawks play the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena.
Attendees also will have the opportunity to
participate in experiences such as: a Fan Tunnel,
Bench Kid or Anthem Buddy.
For additional information visit www.atlan- Zachary Effenbein, manager of Sherry & Harry Maziar Sports Camps, with Justin Holiday of the
Atlanta Hawks at MJCCA recreation center.

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Page 7A

Club seeks to train graceful speakers, leaders
by Andrew Cauthen
Before he joined a local
Toastmasters Club, Stanley
Young was a stutterer.
“I found myself in a position in corporate America
being afraid to really step out
and take advantage of opportunities because I was afraid
to speak in public,” said
Young, one of the founding
and charter members of the
Grace Masters Toastmasters
Club, which meets on the
campus of Emory University.
Toastmasters “increased
my confidence,” Young said.
“I can now speak in front of a
crowd without any problem.
I don’t have a lot of crutch
words unless I’m really not
Young said he first heard
about Toastmasters at the

beginning of his career that
has spanned more than two
“I was too afraid to even
think about Toastmasters,” he
said. After working in corporate America for 21 years as
an information technology
professional, Young decided
to give Toastmasters a try.
He learned of a startup
club in 2010 and joined the
group as an acting vice president of membership.
The Grace Masters club
was started in April 2010
after founders Tony Martin
and Alan Ramsey first held
weekly public speaking classes at a local church.
“After it was such a big
success for the class, they
decided to try to make it
permanent,” said Young, who
served as the organization’s
third president. “That’s how

See Club on Page 14A

Members of the Grace Masters Toastmasters Club learn leadership and public speaking skills. Photo provided

DeKalb County School District
Projects Constructed with SPLOST III Sales Tax Proceeds
Fiscal Year 2015 (July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015)

2007 Sales Tax - Authorized Projects
1. Lease-hold improvements for Rock Chapel ES, Princeton ES, and
Dunwoody ES (COPS 05/07)
2. Renovations/expansion at SWD HS, Towers HS, Columbia HS, McNair
HS, and emergency HVAC
3. Cross Keys HS Renovation and Career Tech
4. Tucker HS replacement
5. Roofing Portfolio #1
6. HVAC Portfolio #1
7. ADA Code Requirements Portfolio #1
8. Local School Priority Requests (LSPR)
9. Site improvements
10. Druid Hills HS improvements

FY 2007
FY 2015
Prior Years (June
Current Fiscal
30, 2014 or
Original Estimated Current Estimated
Year (July 1, 2014 1
June 30, 2015)



Estimated Completion







Dec 2027















11. Renovation and expansion of relocated DeKalb School of the Arts








12. Renovation and expansion of Mountain Industrial Center
13. Purchase of land
14. Additions to Chamblee HS, Clarkston HS, Druid Hills HS, Dunwoody
HS, Lakeside HS, and Redan HS
15. Technology--Refresh cycle
16. Lithonia HS addition and improvements
17. MLK Jr HS addition and improvements
18. Miller Grove HS addition and improvements
19. Dunwoody HS addition and improvements
20. Clarkston HS improvements
21. HVAC Portfolio #2
22. Roofing Portfolio #2
23. ADA Code Requirements Portfolio #2
24. School buses
25. Technology-Media Center upgrades
26. HVAC Portfolio #3
27. Roofing Portfolio #3





















Deemed Unnecessary
Dec 2023

28. Other improvements and supporting services4
All Projects












In compliance with O.C.G.A. 48-8-122
1 - $466 million is the projects approved by the Board of Education on November 17, 2006 (please see
2 - Current estimated revenues increase from $466.0 million to $525.0 million by: (1) re-estimation of SPLOST III revenues to $488.1 million, (2) the addition of $23.3 million from the Georgia DOE
reimbursements expected for SPLOST III projects, and (3) an addition of $13.6 million for local-funded projects (which are included).
3 - Total expenditures as presented in this SPLOST report will differ from the annual financial audit report due to timing differences not included in this SPLOST expenditures report, relative to contracts
payable, retainage payable, and accounts payable.
4 - The current project estimate for "other improvements and supporting services" includes $20,050,000 for principal payments for the $300 million bond, approximately $13,237,011.30 for local-funded
capital projects, and other projects added during the mid-term assessment.
5 -The original budget for this was allocated to each individual project and contained therein for projects #1 - #27.

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Page 8A

New homes to be built in Stone Mountain
by Carla Parker

A contractor plans to
build more than 30 homes in
an undeveloped subdivision
in Stone Mountain.
David Ray of Pinecrest
Custom Homes and
Pinecrest Communities, and
architect Robert Forro of 40
Construction LLC, presented
their plans to the Stone
Mountain City Council Dec.
21. The subdivision of 34
lots, known as Hearthstone
Park, has been undeveloped
for years.

Ray told the city council
that he believes the timing is
right to start building in the
“We’re very well
equipped to look at and go
in and drive a new market,”
Ray told the council. “I know
it’s been there for a long time
and you guys have looked
at that PVC field for quite a
Ray said he found out
about the empty subdivision
through a broker.
“She put me in touch
with the investors who own
the property currently,” he

Ray told the council “We
have a vision that’s a little bit
different from some of the
previous approved conditions.” “The one item that
we really feel strongly about
is the word craftsman style
housing. That design or that
model of home is getting a
little bit dated in today’s market. But we want to do something and provide something
that is very unique and cutting-edge in the market for a
very diverse market.
“There are buyers who
would love to be in a new

home from the low $300,000
to the low $400,000 if we can
provide that, and I believe we
Ray said he and Forro
are looking at more of a farm
house design style and are
currently in the early stage of
the 60-day due diligence to
close the contract.
“We may build a model
home within the next 120
days,” Ray said. “It’s really
just getting our plans finalized and determining where
we want to start in the community and getting all of that
work done.”

City Councilman Richard Mailman said he is excited about the plans.
“I’ve lived on Cloud
Street for 29 years and we’re
super excited, “he said. “We
definitely want to move forward on something like this.”
“Thank you and welcome to Stone Mountain
Village,” Mayor Patricia
Wheeler said. “I think y’all
are going to do wonderful
things and help us get to
where we want to be.”

Classes offered to families coping with serious mental health conditions
by Kathy Mitchell
“Mental health conditions, particularly the more severe challenges,
can be difficult to understand. Loving family members want to help, but
may have no idea how they can help,”
said Cynthia Moorer, co-president
of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) DeKalb. That’s why
the organization sponsors Familyto-Family, free classes for families of
persons diagnosed with serious mental health conditions.
“We’ve been holding these classes
since the mid-1980s and the feedback
has been incredible. People who said
they didn’t know where to turn for
help were overjoyed to finally have
some answers,” said Moorer, who
teaches classes in addition to training
The teachers of the 12-week
courses have all had firsthand experience in caring for family members
with mental health conditions such
as those addressed in the classes.
The courses focus on schizophrenia,
bipolar disorder, major depression,
panic disorder, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder and obsessive-compulsive
NAMI is a mental health organi-

free 12-31-15.indd 8

zation that provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness to
raise the quality of life for individuals and families affected by mental
health conditions.
Moorer said those who have
taken the courses report being able to
communicate better with the family
member they are caring for as well as
being an advocate for that person in
the community.
“The parent of a teen with a mental health condition may be baffled
and frustrated by their child’s behavior. For example, the parent may
say, ‘Take the trash out,’ but what
the child hears is ‘you’re worthless;
you’re no good.’ Once the parents
understand that what they are trying
to communicate is not what the child
is receiving, they know they need to
take a different approach,” Moorer
She quoted a person who had
been through the course as saying,
“I now look more positively at the
person and less at the illness. I highly
recommend this class.”
Another said, “I’ve learned to
take time for myself and to stop judging my loved one.”
Because of the demand for NAMI’s classes the organization is increasing the number of classes as well

as the number of teachers. “At one
point we had just three teachers. This
year we trained 15 people to teach,”
Moorer said.
Moorer said of a 12-week series
of classes she will teach in Decatur
starting Feb. 11, 2016, “This course is
a wonderful experience. It balances
basic psycho-education and skilltraining with emotional support,
self-care and empowerment. We
hope families with relatives who have
a serious mental illness will take advantage of this unique opportunity.”
The course is designed specifically for parents, siblings, spouses,
teenage and adult children and significant others of persons with severe
and persistent mental illness. The
course is not appropriate for individuals who themselves suffer from one
of the major mental illnesses, Moorer
The curriculum was written by a
mental health professional, according to NAMI DeKalb. The courses
provide an in-depth understanding
of such conditions and teach coping skills such as handling crisis and
relapse. They also cover basic information about medications; listening
and communication techniques;
problem-solving skills; recovery and
rehabilitation; and self-care around

worry and stress. 
The need for these classes has
greatly increased because more and
more individuals who in the past
might have been treated in hospitals
are remaining at home. “Many mental hospitals are closing or operating at a reduced capacity so patients
are either being returned home or
turned out in the street. People want
their family members to be safe and
cared for, but at the same time they
want to learn how they can live together in a way that works for the
family,” Moorer said.
“The fact that we do not charge
for our services really helps a lot a
people who can’t afford the help they
and their loved ones need,” she said
adding that a better understanding of
what the loved one is going through
reduces stress for everyone involved
The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Course is free and registration is required. Classes will be held
weekly, 5:45 -7:45 p.m. at a Decatur
location that will be disclosed to registered attendees. For more information or to register, call Janice Ross
at (404) 625-6730 or contact her at

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016

County’s top
money woman
to retire
by Andrew Cauthen
She started working for
the county as an unpaid intern in the 1990s and will
retire as DeKalb County’s top
budget person.
Gwendolyn BrownPatterson, who has worked
as the county’s interim chief
financial officer since 2013,
retires Dec. 31.
Brown-Patterson was
hired in January 1994 as a
financial management analyst and moved up the ranks
working as a principal budget and management analyst,
budget manager, and deputy
director of finance for budget
and grants, before becoming
the first woman to hold the
top finance department position for DeKalb County.
“I have always considered myself to be a public
servant and I believe that
as a public servant there’s
no higher calling,” BrownPatterson said when she was
recognized by county officials during a Dec. 15 commissioners’ meeting.
“When I came on board
as a new commissioner, we
were given these budgets
with no training,” said Commissioner Kathie Gannon.
“So I trumped on down and
Gwen sat down with me and
went over every line. She
plowed right through and
has really worked her way
through the ranks with dili-


Page 9A

gent attention to detail, and
by detail, I mean numbers
upon numbers upon numbers.
“Thank you so very
much for your service,” Gannon said.
Gwendolyn Brown-Patterson (at podium), DeKalb’s interim chief financial officer since 2013, retires Dec. 31.
Commissioner Sharon
through her entire career.
Barnes Sutton said prior to
the contribution you have
[because] Ms. Gwen has
Rader said Brown-Patbecoming the interim direcgiven to DeKalb County.”
something to say. Boy, will
tor, Patterson was “the smart terson’s job has been difficult we miss that. We will miss
quiet one sitting in the back- during the past few years.
“It is much easier to balground that you never heard
ance the budget when the
tax digest is steadily increas“And then she took over
and it was like ‘wow,’” Sutton ing 6 to 10 percent a year,”
Rader said. “It’s much harder
said. “She has so much wiswhen you see the [drop]
dom she’s willing to share,
that we have had in the past
willing to work with you,
few years. I think that Ms.
wanting you to know how
Brown-Patterson has served
everything worked and how
ably in that capacity, helped
you needed it to work.”
us to understand where we
Sutton said, “It’s been
could help to balance that
such a pleasure to get to
budget and...has shown great
know her, to work with her
and to know who she is and
Zach Williams, the
what’s she’s about–a wondercounty’s chief operating offul woman who is multidimensional. We see her as the ficer, said, “When you refer
to Ms. Gwen, you have to use
budget person but getting
the word ‘class.’ I have been
to know her as a real person
outside of that has been such in four different jurisdictions
and three different states
a pleasure.
over the past 25 years and I
“Thank you for staying
would say without a doubt
with us for so long,” Sutton
Ms. Gwen is one of the
said to Patterson. “I know
you could have left long ago, classiest people I have ever
had the privilege of working
but we needed you and you
stayed and took care of us.”
“Ms. Gwen may not be
Commissioner Jeff Rader praised the “ability and the one for a lot of words, until
it’s time to say something
integrity that [Brown-Patimportant,” Williams said.
terson] has served DeKalb
“When Ms. Gwen speaks
County with, not only as
everyone knows [to be] quiet
interim financial officer but

Brookhaven council rescinds vote on
bond for Skyland building
by Carla Parker
In a 3-1 vote, the Brookhaven City Council decided not to fund the $3.33 million
bond the Development Authority needed to
purchase Skyland Center for the Brookhaven
Innovation Academy (BIA).
The city council made the vote Dec. 23
at a special called meeting. Council member
Linley Jones voted to approve the deal, while
council members John Park and Joe Gebbia
voted “no.”

Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams also had
to vote—voting “no”— to get the required
minimum of three votes for a motion to pass
or fail. Councilman Bates Mattison recused
himself from the meeting due to his position
as executive director of BIA.
The city council voted to support the
$3.33 million bond at its Dec. 15 meeting.
However, concerns of conflicts of interest
and ethics were raised afterwards due to
Gebbia’s position on the BIA Board of Directors. Gebbia voted in favor of the bond.
A statement by Gebbia was released

See Brookhaven on Page 10A

free 12-31-15.indd 9

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 10A

Continued From Page 9A

Nearly 35 families received boxes of food items and more from Linda
Harris and her family.

Canby Lane food service assistant Linda Harris (right) gives directions
to family members as they assist with the Christmas give away.

Boxes of food items and toiletries were given to families in need. Photos by Carla Parker

School cafeteria worker gives
back to students in need
by Carla Parker
Every school morning Linda Harris sees the reality of child hunger.
Harris, who had been a food service assistant at Canby Lane Elementary School in unincorporated Decatur for three months, serves food to
children whose only meals of the day
may be school breakfast and lunch.
“Children who stay in the extended stay hotels don’t have a hot plate,
microwaves and refrigerators for food,
and that just touched me,” Harris said.
In the 2012-2013 school year, 92.7
percent of Canby Lane students were
on free and reduced lunch assistance.
According to the National Center for
Education Statistics, the state average
of 62.6 percent.
With children out for two weeks
for winter holiday break, Harris worried that many students would not
have much to eat during that time
weeks. To avoid that, Harris, along
with family members and members
of her church, gathered funds to buy

free 12-31-15.indd 10

food, clothes, toys and other items for
35 students and their families.
The families received the items
Dec. 19 at the school.
School Principal Dr. Keshier
Smikle and the school counselor put
together a list of students and their
Christmas wishes. Harris shared the
list with her family and church members.
“I took the names to my church
and before I could even get home my
family said they would help,” Harris
said. “My family and I bought everything they need, mostly clothes.”
Harris also prepared boxes with
food items for the students.
“Instead of buying hams and turkeys and all of that—they don’t have
anywhere to prepare that—I bought
hot dogs because they can cook that
on a hotplate,” Harris said. “I bought
snacks, juices, [and] stuff they can
put in the little refrigerators that they
have, and candy.
“It’s not a lot but they’ll have
something,” she said. “Some of these
kids come here in the morning and

they’re hungry. I know they’re going
to be out for two weeks and I know it’s
not going to be enough for two weeks
but it is something.”
They also got shoes and books
for the students and stuffed 35 stockings with candy canes. Harris’ church,
Bethel Christian Ministries in Forest
Park, gave her a $500 donation to help
purchase items for the food boxes.
“We’re a small church but it just
touched everyone’s hearts hearing
what these babies are going through,”
she said.
One of the children wanted a bicycle and the principal was hesitant
to add it to the list thinking it was
too expensive. However, Harris’ sister
bought the bicycle for the child.
“My family and I were blessed,”
she said. “My parents always had jobs;
some people didn’t but they always
had a job. This just touched us. Instead of just pulling names we’re taking care of all of the children.

Dec. 22 announcing that on
Dec. 21 he submitted his letter of resignation as a member
of the BIA Board “in order to
allow [city] council the opportunity to revote on this issue
without any cloud of a conflict
of interest.”
“I have served as a member of the Board of Directors
of BIA since its inception, and
although proud of the work I
have done, there remains what
our attorney has described as
the ‘appearance of a conflict.’
With this in mind I asked our
[City] Attorney [Chris Balch]
if my resigning as a member
of the board of BIA would resolve this issue. His response
was, ‘If the substantial interest
disappears, because of resignation or divestiture, there is
no conflict under the [entire]
code. Accordingly, if a second
vote is taken and Mr. Gebbia
is then not a member of the
BIA board, the conflict would
seem to be resolved.’”
Linley said the bond deal
was a good deal for the city.
“We should support our
development authority when
our development authority
proposes a good deal,” Linley
said. “It’s a small bond…and
it’s a good project that we can
start with for our development
authority to do its job. This
is not the city of Brookhaven
acting; this is our development authority asking for our
approval of their action.”
Williams, who has been
in favor of the deal and commended the development
authority for its work, said the
city should not be using its development authority to build
or renovate public facilities.
“We have to vote what we
think is in the best health, welfare and interest of our city,”
Williams said. “I’m just not
completely comfortable with
this mechanism.”
Williams said she has had
conversations with Mayorelect John Ernst, who informed her he was not in favor
of the deal.
“If I don’t vote ‘no’ today
he’s going to vote ‘no’ in January,” she said. “In an effort to
not waste people’s time….we
don’t need to spend any more
money on this.”
Williams said the DeKalb
County School Board would
love to have the property.
“They have a terrible
overcrowding situation in our
city—in the Cross Keys Cluster,” she said. “Maybe the best
use is for DeKalb County to
take its school back. I would
be OK with that.”

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016




Page 11A


City School of Decatur Superintendent David Dude talks with Glennwood book buddies about the book David Two Glennwood Elementary School students read David Goes to School.
Goes to School.

Workers try to drain a flooded area on North Decatur Road at DeKalb Industrial Way. Photo by Carla Parker

Photos brought to you by DCTV
DeKalb County begins one-day-a-week sanitation collection service July 6, 2015
Residential customers will have same-day garbage, recyclable materials and yard trimmings collection
For more info, call or visit:

(404) 294-2900

free 12-31-15.indd 11

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Communicycle employees and volunteers assist residents in repairing their bicycles and sell bikes for less
than $35.

Biking promoted in Clarkston

Page 12A

Chamblee city clerk awarded
blee said in a release.
The City of ChamIIMC grants the
blee announced on
CMC designation only
Dec. 17 that City
to those municipal
Clerk Emmie Nietclerks who complete
hammer has earned
demanding education
the designation of
requirements; and
Certified Municipal
who have a record of
Clerk (CMC), which
significant contribuis awarded by the Intions to their local
ternational Institute
government, their
of Municipal Clerks
community and state, accord(IIMC) Inc.
ing to the release.
“In light of the speed and
The International Institute
drastic nature of change these
of Municipal Clerks, founded
days, lifelong learning is not
in 1947, has 10,300 memonly desirable, it is necessary
bers throughout the United
for all in local government to
States, Canada and 15 other
keep pace with growing demands and changing needs of countries. The mission of this
the citizens we serve. Our city global non-profit corporation
is to enhance the education
takes immense pride in Emmie’s educational accomplish- opportunities and professional
ments and achievement of this development of its diverse
milestone,” the city of Cham-

too much


by Ashley Oglesby

Communicycle, a program initiated in Clarkston
through a bike safety and education effort, works to promote cycling as a sustainable
form of transportation and a
good source of exercise.
Communicycle Clarkston
was inspired by a group in
Chamblee who originally
formed the organization. According to Clarkston Community Center Executive
Director McKenzie Wren, in
2013 the organizers handed
the Communicycle program
off to Clarkston.
Soon after, with the help
of volunteers, Communicycle
officials began repairing bikes,
donating bikes and teaching
people basic bicycle repair
and maintenance skills.
Wren added, “Part of the
way that Communicycle is
sustainable is that people donate bicycles to us. We repair
them and then we resell them Communicycle provides bicycle safety education and increased access
at $35 to community memto bikes and bike repair. Photos by Travis Hudgons
bers and whomever. We also
nectivity Program, which
give away a lot of children’s
Communicycle officials
probikes just because it’s so imhired
a coordinator, comgrams
non-motorportant to have children ridmunity
educator and started
ing bicycles.”
bike shop that visits
However, volunteers and
funding became a problem for
the organization.
Wren said, “We always
knew it was something that
and volunteers to provide free
understanding of safe bicycle
could be amazing but we
basic bike-repair services.
didn’t have the funds to supRecreation coordinator
port it. We didn’t have volunShakir
Shakir said, “People
teers who were able to really
happy and thankful
commit to it.”
I see them
In 2012, Clarkston was
selected to receive funding
through the Atlanta Regional
Commission’s Last Mile Con-

See Biking on Page 20A

free 12-31-15.indd 12

get up and
January is Get Organized month.

Every Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Finders Keepers Furnishings
2753 E. College Ave. Decatur

one canned good or non-perishable pantry item


NAPO-Ga Organizers and Finders Keepers


Help YOU get organized in 2016!
For more information call 404-377-1944
or visit

9:30 am



9:30 am



JAN 16
9:30 am



Start the year with a clear sense of what you
CAN do to save time, money and drama
around your home.
Rachel Johnston

Organize Your Life!”

Make 2016 the year to move your life from
messy to manageable.
Danielle Corley

From Piles to Files

How to manage all of the paper in your life
and keep what really matters.
Diane Quintana and
Jonda Beattie co-present

Financial Organizing

JAN 23 Made Simple
9:30 am


JAN 30
9:30 am


Handy-Do or Handy-Don’t?

Learn how to create a system you can
USE to manage your personal or small
business finances.
Kristin Diver

Take Back Control

Commit to get organized once and for all
and make your house do the work for you.
Mary Paguaga

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 13A

A DeKalb sheriff’s deputy checks licenses during a safety checkpoint in Lithonia in
August. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

lithonia Continued From Page 1A
said Mann, adding that the incident is still under investigation
by the DeKalb County Police Department.
“This type of random violence…has plagued other residents of this area as well,” Mann
The shooting at the deputy’s
home was one of approximately
800 crimes committed this year
within a one-half mile radius of
the intersection of Marbut and
Phillips roads, Mann said. The
crimes include 144 residential
burglaries, 103 assaults and batteries, 114 incidents of criminal
damage to property, 41 vehicle
thefts and 49 incidents of entering autos.
The crime in that community
is “an urgent concern for our
county,” Mann said.
The problem is the “random
violence and threats of violence
by individuals unknown to us
who are more than likely associated with gangs and gang activity
and the disruption that they are
causing to the peaceful living in
our communities,” Mann said.
In August 2015, 25 deputies
from the DeKalb Sheriff ’s Field
Division conducted safety checkpoints in the Lithonia community where the crimes occurred.
During the operation, 34
tickets were issued and warrants
led to three arrests for felonies
and 10 arrests for misdemeanors.
Additionally deputies confiscated
two weapons and located “suspected illegal drugs,” Mann said.
“Still the crime continues to
occur and there is little information on who is committing them

FREEPRESS 1-1-16.indd 4

and why,” said Mann, adding that
law enforcement officials believe
much of the criminal activity is
gang related.
“We also believe that there
is a rising erosion in people’s
respect for their neighborhoods
and their neighbors, but most
importantly, a rising disrespect
for law enforcement,” Mann said.
Mann said he received early
in 2015 a “disturbing email” from
a southeastern DeKalb business
owner who was “so distressed
about the crime in and around
his business and church.”
“Our citizens deserve more,”
said Mann, who in August convened a task force to look at the
crime in the area. “Their confidence in our ability to rectify
situations [and] to improve them
is extremely important to me as
“When we conducted the
safety checkpoints back in August, I said we needed to show up
in a more aggressive way to remind offenders that they will be
apprehended if they continue to
break the law,” Mann said.
“I want to say to those that
are committing these crimes in
our communities that [we] are
looking for you if you are guilty
of these crimes,” Mann said. “And
with the offering of the reward,
others will be looking for you as
well. You will be found and will
be prosecuted.”

Anyone with information
about the shooting at the deputy’s house is asked to contact
Crime Stoppers at (404) 577TIPS (8477).

From left, Keischa Robinson and Stephanie Rockmore along with Blessings On Wheels staff and
volunteers traveled to six homes in Atlanta and Decatur to deliver gifts.

gifts Continued From Page 1A
toys on Christmas morning.”
The toys and bicycles were donated from volunteers and various
sponsors, including Kingdom Living
Ministries in Morrow and Cunningham’s dealership, which has been a
sponsor of Blessings on Wheels from
the beginning.
“[Cunningham] is a huge sponsor,” she said. “I do a lot of work here
with B.O.W. and he allows me to do
Darrell Lumpkin, owner of Ace
Movers in Lawrenceville, provided
three moving trucks to B.O.W., and
Lumpkin, along with his employees,
assisted the group with delivering toys
and bicycles to the families in Atlanta
and Decatur.
“I just have a great amount of help
this year and it is awesome,” she said.
“It has been a blessing.”
Rockmore, along with B.O.W.
project manager Keischa Robinson
and Adriane King found out about

the six families through word of
“Everyone has someone that they
know that is in need,” Rockmore said.
“We had someone at a school tell us
about a family, Keischa reached out to
some teachers and asked them if they
knew of families in need. We found
out about a young man that was killed
and had a daughter, a 2-year-old that
was left behind. We have a young lady
who took in her sister’s kids after she
was incarcerated, and then she has her
kids and her grandmother that she
takes care of.”
Rockmore said she is not worried
about receiving gifts for Christmas.
Her vision has always been to help
those in need.
“I will not Christmas shop for myself, I will shop for others,” she said. “I
don’t have to worry about myself because once [the families] are satisfied
and once I see some smiles on some
faces I’ll be so happy.”

12/29/15 10:23 AM


The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016

Page 14A

Club Continued From Page 7A
Toastmasters came in.”
Young said Toastmasters is for “any person that
is looking to improve their
public speaking or their
speaking in general...[and]
wanting to be better positioned for jobs and opportunities.”
“Essentially what you
have at your disposal is a laboratory for you to test your
skills out and actually have
an audience,” Young said.
Young said the $72 annual club dues are a bargain
considering the benefits.
“If you go through any
type of training course in a
professional setting, you’re
going to definitely pay more
than $72,” he said. “And
you’re probably not going
to get more than a two- or
three-day seminar.”
Julian Leonard, Grace
Masters’ current president,

said the purpose of the organization is to create “an encouraging and motivational
environment in order to
develop strong speakers and
Each meeting features
different speakers, usually
Grace Masters members or
members from other Toastmasters clubs. Speakers are
evaluated by a designated
evaluator and by the audience.
Members rotate among
the various meeting leadership roles.
One role is the “toastmaster of the meeting” who
runs the meeting and ensures that everything goes
according to plan, Leonard
said. Additional meeting
roles include a timer who
times the speeches and the
meeting and a grammarian
who makes sure speakers are

using the English language
“Once you serve in all
those leadership roles, you
get an overall understanding
of not only how to speak, but
how to be a proper leader in
any setting,” Leonard said.
“What everybody thinks
about Toastmasters is speaking, speaking, speaking,” he
said. “But when you get into
it, there’s a lot that goes into
being a leader. In Grace Masters, we like to build leaders.
In order to be a good leader,
you need to be able to speak
well in front of a crowd, but
you need to have those leadership roles.”
The Toastmasters club
is called Grace Masters “because we feel like when you
have great leadership, you’re
graceful. You have a graceful
impact on people. And, not
to mention, it was a creative

name at the time,” Leonard
The 20-member Grace
Masters group is made of
people from various backgrounds, including pharmacy, psychology, politics
and law.
“My goal is to have these
people speak just to show
that we’re just like people
who are thinking about joining Toastmasters,” Leonard
said. “There isn’t anybody on
a high platform that you can’t
be. These people are just like
you. They are human just
like you. They started from a
similar place just like you.”
Grace Masters, which
meets every first, third and
fifth Saturdays, has received
several honors. In 20142015 it was recognized by
the international Toastmasters as Distinguished Club.
From 2010-2014 it was a

President’s Distinguished
Club, the top recognition for
a Toastmasters’ club, and in
2012-2013 it was a Smedly
Award-winning, Select Distinguished Toastmasters
Leonard, a member
since May 2014, joined the
group because he wants to
be “a great leader and a great
“My idol in my life is my
uncle,” Leonard said. “He’s
an entertainment lawyer and
he speaks very, very well. I’m
25 and since I was about 16
in high school he has always
told me about this thing
called Toastmasters. I really
didn’t take him seriously at
first until I got to college and
I realized...I needed to be
able to articulate myself in
front of a crowd, whether it’s
10 people or it’s 100 people.”

DeKalb County School District
Projects Constructed with SPLOST IV Sales Tax Proceeds
Fiscal Year 2015 (July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015)

2012 Sales Tax - Authorized Projects

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Improvements
Capital Renewal Program
Code Requirements
Coralwood Diagnostic Center Addition
Early Learning Center
Arts School at former Avondale MS

Renovation of Southwest DeKalb HS4 and Stone
Mountain HS
Replacement of Austin ES, Fernbank ES, Gresham Park
ES, Pleasantdale ES, Peachcrest ES, Rockbridge ES, Smoke Rise
10. Henderson MS Renovation/Addition
11. Redan HS Renovation/Addition
12. Chamblee HS Replacement
13. McNair MS Replacement
14. Local School Priority Requests
15. Demolition
16. Safety/Security Systems Upgrade
17. Technology Equipment and Infrastructure Refresh
18. School Buses
19. Service Vehicles
20. Other capital improvements and supporting services
All Projects

FY 2013
Original Estimated

Prior Years (June Current Fiscal Year
FY 2015
30, 2014 or
(July 1, 2014 Current Estimated
30, 2015)










Jan 2017
Sep 2017
Feb 2018
Feb 2017
Dec 2018
Oct 2017
Sep 2017







Apr 2017







Nov 2018
Jan 2017
Oct 2016
Jun 2019
Mar 2018
Aug 2017
Aug 2017
Jun 2016
Dec 2017
Jul 2016
Jun 2016







Oct 2017
Dec 2018

In compliance with O.C.G.A. 48-8-122
1 - $475 million is each of the first 19 projects minus the 6.3% taken off and the sum of the 6.3% dollars provided to Project #20, as described in the literature provided to the public prior to
the November 2011 SPLOST vote at
2 - Current estimated revenues increase from $475 million to $570.1 million by the increase of $57.1 million from the Georgia DOE reimbursements expected plus the $38 million in bond
revenues for partial program financing.
3 - Total expenditures as presented in this SPLOST report will differ from the annual financial audit report due to timing differences not included in this SPLOST expenditures report, relative
to contracts payable, retainage payable, and accounts payable.
4 - The Board of Education moved the Southwest DeKalb HS project from SPLOST III to SPLOST IV, increasing its total project budget by $22.3 million, in accordance with the SPLOST
Corrective Action Plan approved on April 27, 2012. This Board action can be found at

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Page 15A

Customers have the option of having their cars delivered to Carvana’s “vending machine.” The Atlanta facility has offices and a three-car garage.

New approach to sale of preowned cars popular in DeKalb
by Kathy Mitchell
Some people looking to
buy a car dread the prospect
of the spending hours at a
dealership or haggling with
a salesman over price and
features. Carvana, a company
launched in Atlanta in 2013,
offers an alternative way
to shop for an automobile.
Carvana customers browse
an inventory of certified
pre-owned vehicles, select
personalized financing terms
and coordinate delivery—all
online. The process, according to Carvana, can take as
little as 15 minutes.
“The traditional used car
sales model came into being
about 75 years ago,” noted
Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia.
“The model is replicated over
thousands of dealerships
across the country that are
very similar to each other. It
hasn’t changed much in 75
years. Customers sit down
with a salesperson and discuss price—something the
customer understands—
along with a lot of things
the customer doesn’t understand,” he said.
“Because dealerships are
so similar, each is typically
trying to be successful by
making as much money from
each customer as possible.
Car dealerships aren’t trying to give their customers
an unpleasant experience—
that’s just the model that
evolved,” Garcia continued.

Cars selected online can be delivered to the customer’s home.

Garcia, one of three
founders of Carvana, said
he and his partners started
by asking themselves why so
many people found the carbuying process so uncomfortable. “We didn’t start by
saying, ‘Let’s build an online
car business.’ As we talked
about it, we realized that
many features from 75 years
ago such as the huge physical
car lot were necessary before
the existence of the Internet,
but they’re not necessary
today. As we were reinventing the used car business we
said, ‘And let’s see if we can
find ways to save the customers money at the same time.’
“Because the approach
was so new business was
very slow at first. We had to
overcome the legendary distrust of used car dealerships,”
Garcia recalled. “We were

lucky to sell 10 cars a month
in our first few months, but
once word got out about us,
we really took off. It also
helped that Forbes named us
the fifth most promising new
company in America.”
Since its launch, DeKalb
County has been one of
Caravan’s strongest sales
markets, establishing the
area’s large population as early adopters to the growing
online car buying trend, Carvana reported.  
Shoppers narrow the list
of available cars by indicating
such factors as body style,
mileage, age and price. From
the cars meeting their criteria, shoppers may inspect
cars online using a patented
360-degree photo process
that allows them to change
the angle, look closely at any
detail and virtually open

doors, the hood and the
“I probably looked more
carefully at the car online
than I would have at a dealership,” said a retired DeKalb
customer who used Carvana
to buy her first preowned
car. “And I got to look it over
in person before I drove it
The retiree needed the
car right away and chose
to have it delivered to the
Atlanta area “vending machine,” a facility with offices
and a three-car garage. A
Carvana employee—they
don’t call themselves salespeople—helped her through
the “paperwork”—most documents were completed and
signed on a computer—and
within minutes she drove
away in a low mileage, late
model Ford Fusion.

Customers also have the
option of having the car delivered to their homes. Either
way, the customer has seven
days to decide whether to
keep the car, which comes
with a 100-day or 4,189 mile
bumper-to-bumper warranty. 
Another DeKalb County
resident, Erika Curtis, said
of her experience with Carvana, “As a first-time car
buyer, I had a lot of anxiety
about going to a car lot for
the first time. I found Carvana through Autotrader.
com, and was so relieved that
it was an option.”
She added, “Carvana was
easy to use, their website is
very open and up-front with
any of the car’s flaws, and
they give you all the information you need to make an
informed decision. I found
them to be a very trustworthy and accommodating
business for a first-time
buyer. I’m not normally one
to rally behind a brand, but
I’m a big fan of their business
Carvana states that because an online shopping
platform replaces the dealership with technology, consumers receive an average
savings of $1,681 compared
to Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail Price. Online
information about each car
includes its nonnegotiable
price and its Blue Book price.

Globally aware

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce • Two Decatur Town Center, 125 Clairemont Ave., Suite, Decatur, GA 30030 • 404.378.8000 •

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The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016




Page 16A


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The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 17A

David Dude takes on Decatur school district
by Ashley Oglesby

After a nearly five-month
search for a replacement
school superintendent, Decatur’s school board selected
David Dude, former chief
operating officer for the Iowa
City Community School
District in Iowa, to lead the
City Schools of Decatur
Board Chairman Garrett
Goebel said, “I am confident
that we’ve found the right
leader for City Schools of
Dude started work on
Nov. 2. He is the 10th superintendent of the school district since 1902.
Dude will replace Phyllis
Edwards, who announced
her resignation in March and
whose contract ends Dec. 31.


Edwards led the district
since July 1, 2003. She’s taking a job with the Georgia
School Boards Association
(GSBA), where she’ll work
for GSBA executive director

and former Decatur school
board member Valarie Wilson.
Dude said, “During her
tenure in the district, Dr.
Phyllis Edwards did tremendous work. With enrollment
now projected to exceed
6,000 students by 2020, we
are facing unprecedented
growth. Furthermore, no
doubt influencing the district’s growth and success,
most of the current five-year
strategic plan has already
been accomplished. Recent
ACT and SAT scores show
CSD students scoring at the
top of the state and the nation.”
When Edwards became
superintendent, Decatur enrollment was around 2,500,
its lowest in at least 60 years.
But during her tenure the
system not only grew, but

also gained an excellent academic reputation.
On the most recent
Georgia College and CareerReady Performance Index
measure of schools and
districts, Decatur’s system
had an overall score of 87.3,
ranking it sixth in the state.
Georgia’s overall score was
Dude said, “With a
change in leadership comes
opportunity, an opportunity
to reflect on the past, its
challenges and its successes.
It’s an opportunity to examine our current potential and
an opportunity to look to the
future with a vision of all the
district can be.”
Dude comes from a
system with approximately
14,000 students compared to
Decatur’s 4,658.
“Throughout my career

in education, excellence
has been achieved through
a continuous focus on students, empowering all those
around them with smart systems, transparent leadership
and innovative solutions to
challenging problems, designed and implemented collaboratively,” Dude said.
He added, “As I look to
the future, I envision City
Schools of Decatur continuing to excel, while boldly
addressing the complex
challenges resulting from
success and growth. We will
celebrate and build on the
many skills and talents of our
passionate students, faculty,
and staff while nurturing
the district’s personalized
approach to teaching and
learning without compromising Decatur’s distinctive
spirit and identity.”

Georgia State names dean of Perimeter College
Peter Lyons, Georgia State
University’s associate provost for
institutional effectiveness and a professor of social work in the Andrew
Young School of Policy Studies, will
become the first vice provost and
dean of the new Perimeter College
after the Board of Regents approves
the consolidation of Georgia State
and Georgia Perimeter College
(GPC) in January.
“Peter brings a wealth of academic and administrative experience to this position,” Risa Palm,
Georgia State provost and senior
vice president for academic affairs,
Lyons has spearheaded the uni-

versity’s move to a single authoritative data system, redesigned the academic program review and administrative unit review processes and
led the university through various
accreditation-related initiatives. He
was interim dean of the Byrdine F.
Lewis School of Nursing and Health
Professions and developed and coordinated the consolidation plan for
GPC and Georgia State.
“Peter is passionate about Perimeter’s mission and looks forward
to working with his colleagues to
make this consolidation a stunning
success,” President Mark Becker
Lyons joined the Georgia State

faculty in 1998 as an assistant professor in the School of Social Work
and became a full professor in 2011.
He received his Ph.D. in social work from SUNY Buffalo, and
earned his master’s degree in social
work and advanced diploma in education at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
With the vote of the Board of
Regents in January 2016, Perimeter
College will officially become an
academic unit within Georgia State.
The Regents approved consolidation
of the two institutions in January
Peter Lyons

happy holidays
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The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 18A

Derek Wilson (top) defeated Harrison Aiken in one minute and 18 seconds with a north-south choke. Photos by Jamie Wable

Redan alum working to become a MMA fighter
by Carla Parker
During the day, Derek Wilson Jr. works as a security specialist at the Fulton County Courthouse and
attends Gwinnett Technical College, studying to be a
In the evenings, the Redan High School alum heads
to X3 Sports gym for his mixed martial art (MMA)
training—training to become a professional MMA
How does a 27-year-old courthouse employee and
nursing student go on a journey to become an MMA
It started with a video game.
Wilson, who at the time was a biology student at
Fort Valley State University, began playing the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) video game with
one of his fraternity brothers.
“When I was hanging out with him we would play
it,” he said. “Right after that we would watch it on TV
and I just got familiar with it. I was playing the game
and I didn’t like losing. After watching it I was like, ‘I
can do this.’ I would play the game and I would watch [a
live match] to figure out what I should’ve done when I
was playing [the video game].”
Wilson has a wrestling background. He did one year
of wrestling at Redan his senior year.
“I was trying to play [college] football so I got on the
wrestling team to help with tackling and body control,”
he said. “I really fell in love with it.”

See MMA on Page 19A

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Wilson celebrates after defeating Harrison Aiken.

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016


Page 19A

This was Derek Wilson’s first fight and win. Photos by Jamie Wable

MMA Continued From Page 18A

He did pretty well in one season, finishing seventh in the county
in 2006 with a 20-29 record in the
171-weight-class. He finished in fifth
place at the DeKalb County Wrestling Championship, helping Redan
win the county title.
He gained the skills he needed
to play college football and joined
the football team at Fort Valley State
the following year as a walk-on linebacker. He also joined the track team
to help with his speed. He participated in the 100- and 200-meter, the
4x100-meter relay and the decathlon.
Wilson ended up playing only
one season of football as a running back. He said he left the team
because of its lack of organization.
However, he ran track all four years
at Fort Valley, where he graduated in
2010 with a degree in biology.
After college, he started doing.
“I wanted to get back to doing
something like wrestling,” he said.
“It’s not really a place you go to
wrestle, so I figured jiu jitsu was kind
of close. So I got into jiu jitsu and it
kind of went from there.”
He began participating in local jiu jitsu tournaments. He has
won two gold medals, a silver and a
bronze medal. Afterwards, he began
transitioning to MMA.
“I knew wrestling was really

free 12-31-15.indd 19

important and I knew that I had a
wrestling style, so I feel like if I started doing some striking I would be
pretty good at it,” he added.” I joined
a gym that has a MMA team about
a year and a half ago and it just went
from there.”
He joined X3 Sports gym in Inman Park. At the same time, he was
attending Mercer University in Atlanta studying to become a pharmacist. He would later transfer to Gwinnett Technical to study nursing.
Wilson said learning the MMA
style of fighting was different.
“You go in there thinking that it’s
easy to do [by] what you see on TV,
but it’s really not,” he said. “You go
in there for training and you really
get tired. It’s so much more tiring
than it looks. To get your composure
while you’re getting hit is different.
The conditioning is a lot. Other than
that, learning the new moves, that
comes [with it]; and just putting it all
together is something that you really
have to work at.
“Being able to put the wrestling,
the jiu jitsu, the boxing and the kick
boxing all together in one—you can
be good all of those things individually and still suck at MMA because
you can’t put it together,” Wilson
added. “You have to be able to put it
all together, and I think that’s the big

thing about it. When I first started,
the first time I trained with the team
I got hurt. I didn’t get beat up really
bad, but I was hurt. My body got beat
up and I was dead tired.”
Wilson said it took him three
weeks to a month to get used to
MMA fighting.
“Since then it has gotten easier,”
he said. “At this point it’s playful, it’s
fun. I know I can push when I need
to push and lay back if I want to. I try
not to, but if I want to I can.”
MMA is one of the more violent
sports because of the various styles of
fighting combined into one. Wilson
said channeling his violent side for a
fight is not hard for him.
“I think everyone is inherently
violent,” he said. “I think everyone is
capable of extreme violence. I like it.
It’s violence, but it’s a very cerebral
part to it.
“I’ve always liked being able to
put together the physical attributes
and the mental as well, and being
able to put them in a complete game
plan and beat somebody physically
and mentally,” he said. “I don’t think
it’s very hard to tap into being violent—the aggression. I think that
came with the rest. I feel like I’ve always had aggression, but didn’t know
how to channel it, and wrestling
helped with that.”

Wilson, who fights in the
middleweight division (185-weightclass), had his first MMA fight in
September at National Fighting
Championship (NFC) 77 in Atlanta.
He defeated Harrison Aiken in one
minute and 18 seconds by a northsouth choke.
“To win the way I did felt really
good,” he said. “It really confirmed
what I felt—I felt like I was good. I
felt like I could go out there and do
it. To go out there and do it the way
I did it was very gratifying. It really
built my confidence up. It really just
confirmed what I thought would
happen because you think you’re
good but you’ve never had a fight.
You’ve never really went out there
and done anything. It helped convince me that I could really do this.”
Wilson’s next fight will take place
Jan. 22 at NFC 81 in Kennesaw. He
will take on Umidjon Batirov.
Wilson (1-0) said he wants to go
10-0 on the NFC level and then go
pro on the UFC level.
However, his current plan is to
graduate in December 2016 with his
nursing degree and go into the nursing field.
“If MMA takes off then I’ll do
that full time,” he said.

12/29/15 10:29 AM

The Champion FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, January 1, 2016

bikinG Continued From Page 12A
training they didn’t know if
they could ride their bikes on
the street or on the trail only.”
He added, “That’s why we
give them advice and training.
We want to keep them safe
and help them ride safely in
the streets with cars and stay
Bikes can be purchased
for less than $30 through
Communicycle. Wren said,
“They may need a little work”
but volunteers assist people in
diagnosing problems, finding
used for those that need to be
“As both a low-income
community and a community
where a lot of folks are coming from countries where biking is really common, there
are a lot of people who cycle.
It’s incredibly important for
people to get access to safe bicycles and to learn how to ride
them safely,” Wren said.
Earlier this year, the
city of Clarkston and the
Clarkston Community Center
partnered with The Atlanta
Bicycle Coalition to try an
open streets initiative, to give
residents and supporters the
chance to experience biking

free 12-31-15.indd 20

and walking on streets where
they might normally feel unsafe outside of a car.
Wren said, “We’ve been
really trying to raise the message on how to ride bicycles
safely in the U.S.”
She added, “We were all
pleased with the event and
see a lot of great potential in
building on what we have
learned and do it again sometime in 2016.”
Wren said the organization is seeking partnerships
and sponsors for the next
open streets event.
The organization is always
collecting bike and helmet
Wren said, “Supporting
cycling is good on so many
levels–environmentally, physically, spiritually—you name it.
Bicycling is an excellent thing
to focus on and really when
you donate to the program
know that it’s going to an incredible cause.”
For additional information on how to donate, volunteer or sponsor at Communicycle, email


Page 20A

Picture Yourself

NOW is the time to get
fit and eat healthy!
To learn more about getting fit or eating healthy
OR to get involved in DeKalb County Board of
Health initiatives to improve the overall health
and wellness of our community, go to
or contact Anika Norwood at
(404) 294-3896

happy new year

12/29/15 10:29 AM