Independent School District Update By State Rep. Tom Taylor

The Dunwoody Crier published an update written by State Rep. Tom Taylor on various State House bills . Below is an excerpt on Independent School Districts.

Georgia State Rep. Tom Taylor R - Dunwoody District 79

Georgia State Rep. Tom Taylor
R – Dunwoody
District 79

By: State Rep. Tom Taylor
Dunwoody Crier

As we begin this week, the legislative session for 2015 is drawing rapidly to a close. This coming Friday, March 27, will mark Legislative Day 38 of 40, leaving the last two legislative days until next week.

Here are some of the high priority bills and resolutions that I will be working on this week:

HR-4 – This is a constitutional amendment I am sponsoring that would allow cities in Georgia to form independent school systems, something that has been prohibited by the State Constitution since 1945.

As a constitutional amendment this requires not just a majority, but a two-thirds vote in each chamber, and then passage on a statewide ballot referendum.

If passed, this would allow cities such as Dunwoody to form their own school systems, allowing much more focused local control of our education dollars and management of personnel and curriculum. This legislation was passed out of the House Education Committee on March 9.

The next step is to round up the requisite 120 House votes required for passage. As we enter the last hectic days of the session, with representatives leaving the floor for committee meetings and conference committees, I am going to hold this bill off the floor until next session and spend the next eight months talking with individual House and Senate members and hopefully tee this up in January 2016.

The delay does not hurt us; the issue cannot go on the ballot before November 2016. I do want to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of GLASS (Georgians for Local Area School Systems), co-chaired by Erika Harris and Allegra Johnson of Dunwoody.

You can learn more about Tom Taylor’s bills by continuing to read “Taylor will hold independent school district bill until 2016” at the ‘Crier.

Posted in DeKalb County, Georgia Independent Schools | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Nancy Jester responds to WSB’s Rachel Stockman’s report tonight about Stan Jester

From Nancy Jester’s Facebook Page >>

Just want to say that I saw a ridiculous and completely false story that is being promo’d to run at 11pm about Stan Jester. Here are the facts:

(1) Stan has had a national background check. It was completed in December of last year and the school district knows this. It is published on his website. You can see for yourself that Stan has NO criminal record in Georgia or any other state.. You can view all emails, background checks, etc. at this link:

http://www.stanjester.com/issues/backgroundcheck/

(2) The DeKalb County Police Chief wrote a memo describing how when doing Stan’s background check they contacted the GBI to make sure they were doing the proper check. Further in the memo, the police chief describes how background checks query the National Fingerprint File (NFF). He further describes how if Stan had a record in another state, his report would have indicated that criminal information was available.

(3) Stan is the only Board member who has made his national background check available for the public to see.

(4) There is NO requirement in law or policy that requires Stan, or any board member, to submit to a background check by the school district or at all. Stan has gone above and beyond in the spirit of transparency and cooperation.

(5) Stan had the national background check officially disseminated pursuant to law from the DCPD to the school district.

(6) Because the school system has continued to refuse Stan access to his office, county email, official BOE calendar, online documents, denied him his legal compensation, and refused to register him for state mandated board training, he retained counsel.

(7) It is interesting that now, the school district is once again using the media in an attempt to embarrass and discredit Stan. The narrative that they are perpetuating is a pure falsehood They should be ashamed of themselves. They have been presented with a demand to remedy their illegal treatment of Stan. I do hope that they do so.”

Posted in Bullying, Michael Thurmond, Stan Jester, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 20 Comments

A post from the APS super…

Positioning the District for a New Direction

In my experiences as a superintendent, I have come to believe that where a district puts its money, speaks volumes about what it values—this is why I take the budgeting process so seriously. I spend a great deal of time getting very hands-on and really knowing where we are going to spend our tax dollars.

Today, the Atlanta Board of Education approved the tentative FY16 General Fund budget for Atlanta Public Schools, and I thought I would update you. With our budget, we are positioning the district for a new direction— a new direction to increase instructional quality and efficiency to assure successful achievement of our vision and mission.

I want to assure you that we are taking deliberate steps to make certain that not only do we have a balanced budget, but a strategic and more efficient one that drives us to higher student outcomes. Quality budgeting means that the Board members, administrative leadership and I take the appropriate time and steps to work through the finances … even spending our weekends to do it.

The district faces considerable challenges as we restore the organizational integrity of Atlanta Public Schools, employ best practices and position our school district structurally, strategically and financially for the future.

As we embark on the FY16 budget process – in preparation for a new operating model – we find ourselves in a position where we are facing demands for mandatory expenditures that exceed the increase in available resources.

For a quick summary, the Board is working with a planned FY16 General Fund budget of $682.8 million, a little more than a $25 million increase over this year’s fiscal budget of $657.6 million. But, as we begin the process, we have about $31 million in additional required increases for special education, pension funding and teacher retirement contributions as well as increased enrollment in our APS charter schools and a decline in other APS schools.

Last fall, the Board approved parameters for the FY16 budget that directed us to focus on such areas as achieving equitable distribution of resources, funding pension obligations and prioritizing special education and achievement in math and literacy. In addition, as we transition to the new operating model, we have committed to pushing more discretionary money to the school level to increase flexibility and engagement.

As a result, we are forced to make tough decisions in the coming weeks as we tighten our budgets and make strategic investments.

To that end, we are examining ways to achieve a balanced budget while making the necessary decisions to ensure that Board priorities are supported.

As tight as the FY16 budget will be, I am hopeful that we can find additional dollars to push more and more of our available dollars closer to the classroom and to our students.

We have already reduced central administration overhead with a plan that cuts Central Office positions by nearly 10 percent and redirects approximately $5 million to flexible spending at the school-level. And, we will continue to look for opportunities to find efficiencies at all levels in the organization to further reduce overhead costs for the school district.

Furthermore, we will examine other reductions as necessary with the assumption that we do not, at this time, have additional revenues. However, the budget approval process is an evolving one, and constraints may change as we progress and as the Board considers options such as changing the millage rate, using the district’s fund balance and other financial resources due to us, and exploring new creative solutions for long standing challenges such as the pension.

In preparation for FY16, we also have found ways to maximize resources in other budgets.

For example, the Board and I responded directly to the community’s considerable feedback when we reviewed SPLOST dollars and reprioritized $39 million to immediately address ineffective heating and air conditioning systems in schools.

We have been taking advantage of extended carryover federal dollars from Race to the Top and Title I that will serve as down payments for programs and initiatives during FY16, thanks to the insightful feedback of the principal advisory committee and help from the Georgia State Department of Education.

We created a new Office of Partnerships and Development to leverage our business community and philanthropic relationships to explore creative ways to bring in new revenue sources.

As the budget process moves forward, we will do our part to keep the public up-to-date. I invite you to stay informed through budget community meetings or by following budget developments on the APS budget website.

For me, after almost one school year, I am starting to feel the build-up of great things for our district. We are laying the groundwork that we need to improve quality and increase efficiency. Now we need the support of the Board and the community to right size the district and prepare for the new direction.

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Reprinted from
@atlsuper
The official blog of Meria Carstarphen, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools
Follow her on Twitter: @ATLsuper

You might also be interested in this post by Carstarphen >> Clarifying Class Size Waivers

Posted in Michael Thurmond | Tagged , | 12 Comments

All DeKalb high schools now accredited twice

As the Dunwoody Crier reports, in addition to our precarious SACS accreditation, all DeKalb high schools have now been fully accredited by the Georgia Accreditation Commission >>

Interestingly, it wasn’t an educator who pointed a way forward. Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall began to search for a backup plan. It led to a state agency not widely familiar to the public.

The Georgia Accreditation Commission exists to do exactly what SACS/AdvancED does but with a lower profile and lower costs.

Nall used city council resolutions and persistence with the DeKalb school board and its superintendent, Michael Thurmond. They agreed over time to seek that second opinion and GAC was hired.

Its consultants began site visits and earlier this month rendered a verdict.

In a letter to Nall, the executive director of the GAC, Phil Murphy, told Nall his board had voted unanimously to approve the DeKalb consultants’ recommendation.

“All high schools were ‘Accredited with Quality,’ which means they met all standards,” he wrote.

That is the commission’s highest rating.

The DeKalb school board heard the news last week.

Since Nall began the effort, SACS/AdvancedEd has lifted the county school system from probation, but even if school board behavior again turned below standards, high school students’ diplomas, scholarship efforts and the like would be unaffected.

Many thanks to Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall!!

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So, to recap the board actions of late >> (A DSW digression)

  1. Stan Jester asked the board to allocate most of the mid-year extra funds to give raises to teachers. The board voted him down.
  2. Jim McMahan asked for a motion to require next year’s budget to adhere to the state’s mandated minimum standard of spending 65% of the operating budget directly in the classroom. The board voted him down.
  3. [UPDATE & CORRECTION: The board didn’t have a chance to vote it down, the school district attorney prevented them from taking a vote]

  4. Now, in response to SACS placing DeKalb schools on probation, mainly due to board behavior and budgetary issues, it was a local politician from Dunwoody, not the DeKalb school board who after forming an alliance with Michael Thurmond, pushed and received accreditation for our high schools from a state accrediting agency that actually analyzes educational outcomes as part of their formula for accreditation.

Looks like this school board is zero for three. Add to these failures, our board chair publicly gave and continues to give District 1 rep Stan Jester a large amount of grief because Stan wouldn’t allow the DCSD internal HR staff to do his required background check, opting instead to use the Dunwoody Police, DeKalb Police and GBI — Chair Melvin Johnson then turns around and appoints a convicted felon who publicly asked the Board to circumvent bidding rules and hire black firms to the community committee charged with narrowing the list of candidates for superintendent.

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John Evans, convicted felon [ John H. EVANS, Jr., Petitioner v. UNITED STATES. ] and president of the DeKalb County NAACP, is on record publicly urging the school board to “look past qualifications and a straight forward bid process” and hire a “black firm”. Evans said, “in a normal straight forward bid process [black firms] won’t make it. I know we won’t make it.” Evans went on to suggest they [DeKalb School Board] “massage the process to make sure we have black representation.” Evans is urging the school board to conduct illegal activity.

Being a convicted felon is perfectly ok to our board chair. But just try circumventing the school system’s HR department and there will be hell to pay from Chair Melvin Johnson – who also negotiated a contract between New Birth Church and DeKalb schools for over $10,000 a month for ‘rent’ for the Leadership Prep Academy Charter School, which has since replaced the private Christian school that used to operate within the walls of New Birth… brilliant move! Use public funds to pay for your private school! We wonder if Dunwoody Baptist could get away with the same thing. Think about it – It’s worth a shot!

Posted in Good News!, SACS/Accreditation | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Pay Differential between DCSD and APS

We were forwarded some information from an annexation supporter regarding the pay differential between DeKalb and Atlanta public schools for teachers. There are a lot of rumors and misinformation swirling around regarding the cost to teachers and taxpayers if the Druid Hills area were to annex into Atlanta. Below is at least a bit of factual info for teachers.

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Given that some areas of DeKalb County may end up in different school districts if voters in those areas are given the opportunity to cast a “small d” democratic ballot about their local government, it makes sense for teachers whose “work location” schools may end up in a new district to know what the pay differences are between DeKalb and their potential new employer.

Below is a 2014-2015 comparison of the DCSD and APS salary scales and ranges for teachers, media specialists, paraprofessionals, assistant principals, and principals. These charts do not address differences in benefits, which a cursory review suggests APS benefits are more substantial than DeKalb.

In light of how the “at-issue for annexation” schools performed on the CCRPI and School Climate Ratings, it would be reasonable for one to assume that APS and its new, competent leadership will be happy to welcome these schools and teachers into the APS fold. Dr. Carstarphen, by all measures seems incredibly bright and more creative, collaborative, interactive, and competent than any metro super in recent memory. She and her team, including former KIPP Executive Director, David Jernigan (KIPP is designed to serve all students, regardless of socio-economic status, to the highest level possible), will be extremely lucky to have the input and demonstrated skills of the superb teachers and leadership at Briar Vista, Fernbank, and Druid Hills HS. Those skilled, sought-after teachers should be aware of the following salary differences. Note that DeKalb also lists its salaries in daily amounts that are not included in this table.

DCSD-vs-APS-salariesDCSD-vs-APS-salaries-2

Posted in Charter School, Charter School Amendment, DeKalb County, Georgia, Georgia Independent Schools | Tagged , | 24 Comments