Public Meetings Set to Discuss Charter Schools in DeKalb

Parents, teachers, and school district residents are welcome at upcoming meetings to review a proposed move to charter schools.

From the DeKalb County Schools website:

The DeKalb County School District is seeking public input as it seeks to become the largest charter system in the state of Georgia.

District leaders must submit a petition to the Georgia Department of Education seeking charter system status, and officials are asking for public comment on autonomy and flexibility at your school and how that autonomy and flexibility can lead to innovations in how students are taught and how the school is governed.

Five community engagement sessions have been scheduled, and anyone seeking the opportunity to provide input is invited to attend, including parents, teachers, and other community members.

Residents are also encouraged to review information from the Georgia Department of Education concerning charter systems and review some of the petitions from other school systems around the state that are already operating as charter district.

The meetings will be held:

· Region IV Lithonia High School Tuesday, August 26 @ 6:00 PM

· Region II Lakeside High School Wednesday, August 27 @ 6:00 PM

· Region I Dunwoody High School Thursday, August 28 @ 6:00 PM

· Region V Towers High School Tuesday, September 2 @ 6:00 PM

· Region III Stephenson High School Wednesday, September 3 @ 6:00 PM

For more information, contact Trenton Arnold at 678.676.0671 or mail to: Trenton_J_Arnold@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us

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47 Responses to Public Meetings Set to Discuss Charter Schools in DeKalb

  1. thedeal2 says:

    There is no point, right? They’ve made their decision, and they will implement it any way they want to.

  2. whyaminotsurprised says:

    Thanks for the contact information- the website link is less than helpful – no info on DeKalb’s petition at all. The AJC note on this meeting is that they are still deciding about charter vs. IE2 –> I thought they had already turned in ppw for the charter, too. Very unclear.

  3. dsw2contributor says:

    Stan J.,

    This is another example of why the Wallace Foundation Grant (http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/news-and-events/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2014/06/Wallace-Foundation-Release-FINAL-6.24.14-9.pdf) matters: the DCSD employee put in charge of this “public input” is Trenton Arnold, a Regional Superintendent.

    Arnold supervises twenty-seven schools according to the DCSD website:

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/assistants

    He has 27 schools to supervise, but now he has to also run five long evening meetings over a period of two weeks, plus answer any inquiries about those meetings during the school day. He is a good guy and I am sure he can pull it all off, but he should not be involved in these meetings. There are plenty of people in the palace who can run bull____ meetings, but not many who can make the schools run better.

    Regional Superintendents should be 100% devoted to supervising schools.

    For those of you that don’t know him, Arnold was Principal of two different DCS middle schools. Several of his Assistant Principals have gone on to become Principals themselves. According to the June 2013 DSW post “DeKalb schools’ leaders heading to Harvard”:

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.com/2013/07/08/dekalb-schools-leaders-heading-to-harvard/

    Arnold was one of the DCS employees sent to Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Program (PELP) in 2013….. if you open that link and scroll down to the July 9, 2013 at 6:11 PM comment from DSW, you’l see that DSW thought highly of him then.)

  4. howdy1942 says:

    Is this for real? Will these people really listen to the public, take the input that the public provides, and do something that the people want? Or are these meetings, like those held earlier this year, just a formality to say that the school system “listened”, but this is what we are going to do and have been planning to do all along?

    I think that the people of Druid Hills provided resounding input, prepared a very good petition, involved the people who live in that community, but the Dekalb County School System fought what the people of that community said and wanted tooth and nail.

    I think a better way would be to approve initiatives like the Druid Hills Cluster because the people of that community would have a big incentive to make it work. If the schools in that area improved and people were happy with the outcome, property values would rise. That would mean increased taxes and hence increased revenues received by the Dekalb County School System. Wouldn’t that be a good thing for Dekalb Schools? Wouldn’t that attract more people and more businesses into Dekalb County? Wouldn’t Dekalb County have more money to do the things that it wanted to do? Wouldn’t there be more money and perhaps a new model for the schools in South Dekalb that the school board and the administration seem to be so “worried” about?

    The people of Dekalb County have been speaking out for years. Two new cities have been formed and they want to manage their own school system. The residents of those communities have spelled out what they want in great detail to the State Legislature for two years. Efforts have been made by three more communities to become cities. Druid Hills has put forth a tremendous effort to form a charter school system that they would manage yet it would remain under the jurisdiction of the DCSS. Failing that, Druid Hills is now talking with Atlanta about joining the City of Atlanta and take all of its taxes with them.

    I firmly believe that the people have spoken time and again, they have spoken loudly and often, their actions have spoken volumes – the problem, and it is a big, big problem, is that the Dekalb County School has not listened and does not appear to have the least interest in doing so. The big issue is one of trust. And that trust is not likely to be restored until we have a new superintendent who listens and who answers questions. And that superintendent needs to be chosen based on his/her qualifications with no consideration given to race. I am excited for the Atlanta Public School System – that new superintendent seems to be reaching out to the community, listening, and taking a hands-on approach. Gwinnett has really set a great record of accomplishment. And in between these two is Dekalb. We desperately need a new superintendent and a new administration with new ideas and one that will truly listen to the people. Over forty years of business experience taught me that people have the best ideas and all a good manager needs to do is to truly listen. Rather than saying that we have already decided to form a County-wide charter system, why not just come to these meetings with a blank sheet of paper and ask the people what they envision in a school system for Dekalb County? How would they build a better school system for all of our students? They probably have some very good ideas.

  5. I think Thurmond’s District Charter Business is a way to keep the Friends and Family firmly in place at the Palace. Folks like Ramona Tyson , Dr. Beasley, Ramsey and the rest of the folks, are looking for ways to keep control of the district, while attempting to appease the the folks who have had enough. Seems smart too me if I was on the Clew Crew. How these folks can drive a Billion dollar school system into the ditch and not be held accountable is truly amazing!

    Compare the Druid Hills Charter to the McNair Charter, read them! Look what a community can come up compared to what some DCSS PAID employees came up with. Stark difference if you ask me.

    Howdy, these meetings are like the previous DCSS Charettes, Blue Ribbon Panels and Public Meetings. They are discussing something that has been decided for weeks! Like Fran Millar told me, when they had the public INPUT meeting to close Nancy Creek, “It is a done deal!” I was amazed by his remark, he thought the community already knew it was being closed so Kittredge could move in. Folks public meetings are just a Superintendent’s dog and pony show. Someone in Tyson’s office eh. er. excuse me, Thurmond’s office will write a glowing report about all the community input and they will lock it in the filling cabinet where Clew’s lost audit is stashed.

    The Palace of DCSS, Mired in the Muck of Mediocrity for over a decade!

  6. thedeal2 says:

    The community should host a community meeting with the topic of How to Host a Community Meeting and invite the Palace employees.

  7. This will be just like Fulton counties Faux whole district charter. There is no independence at the school level. They just want the extra dollars the state gives them for more adult administration jobs. Look on Fultons ridiculous organization charts, and their ridiculous job titles. There are no decisions made in the classroom. No dollars to the classrooms.

  8. howdy1942 says:

    I also went out to the DCSS Web site and found very little information. Has anyone seen any information anywhere about just what the DCSS is thinking?

    I have researched the definitions for charter schools and understand that charter schools are, by definition, designed to be smaller schools serving smaller jurisdictions, operated independently of large by bodies, and wholly by those within the confines of the area served. This is in contrast to large, centrally administered school systems such as Dekalb County.

    I researched this topic and found the following excerpt from Wikipedia about New Orleans:

    “Undoubtedly the most radical experimentation with charter schools has occurred in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Public Schools system is currently engaged in reforms aimed at decentralizing power away from the pre-Katrina school board central bureaucracy to individual school principals and charter school boards, monitoring charter school performance by granting renewable, five-year operating contracts permitting the closure of those not succeeding, and vesting choice in parents of public-school students, allowing them to enroll their children in almost any school in the district.[18] New Orleans is the only city in the nation where the majority of public school students attend charter schools.[19] Fully 78% of all New Orleans school children were in charter schools during the 2011–12 school year.[20] As of May 2014, all but 5 (Bethune Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Mahalia Jackson elementary, McDonogh 35, and McMain High School are all that remain of the direct run New Orleans Public School System) of New Orleans’ schools are charter schools rather than traditional public schools.[21″

    Yet this seems to be specifically what the Druid Hills Charter Petition was all about.

    Some specific questions about the intentions of Dekalb County:

    1. How will the charter system being considered by Dekalb be structured?
    2. How will it be managed? Will it be a single large charter or will there be multiple charters?

    3. To what extent will the central superintendent, administration be involved with day-to-day operations? How autonomous will each charter be?

    4. If it will be a large, single charter, how will that be different from today?

    I sent my comments and questions regarding this matter to this task force back in February when it first held meetings to discuss the future of the Dekalb County School System. Other than to simply tell me that they had received my comments, I have heard nothing – no feedback, no updates, no nothing. Ironically, it was during that final meeting to gather comments from the public that Mr. Thurmond (who was not at the meeting) released a statement that he had decided to pursue a “charter” structure. So much for public comments.

    I am very skeptical of the motivations and intent of the upcoming meetings. It just seems to me like these meetings are being “staged” and the intent is simply to go through the motions that look good on paper. I want change in Dekalb County – true change. For years, the existing management structure has given us a significant decline in what was once a great school system that was performing in the top 5% of the country. And that decline has divided our County as never before. We need a solution that heals our County, that unites our people, and one that improves our school system for the students, not one that is superficial and/or intended only to maintain a power structure or protect jobs. I have lived in Tucker for 40 years and know many, many outstanding people who have devoted countless hours to improving our little town and they have made a difference. Our community consists of all races and is, in fact, very international. There are active and retired educators, lawyers, doctors, engineers, autoworkers, ministers, builders, carpenters, plumbers, and others who are so very capable of managing a charter school system. As in so many other endeavors, I have no doubt that they would be successful in managing a charter school system. Like Druid Hills, we only need to be given an opportunity.

  9. Stan Jester says:

    Another Comment
    Do parents in Fulton County feel that way? Do they feel like they have a “Faux Charter”?

    The Fulton County School Charter System application appears to be window dressing. Page 50 shows the authority/control the School Governance Council (SGC) has. It’s a lot of “Evaluates”, “Approves”, “Recommends”, etc … but no decision making.

  10. Janet Pierce says:

    New post on Stan Jester’s Fact Checker

    DeKalb Schools Changing Grading System
    by Stan Jester
    DeKalb Schools has changed their district wide Grading Protocol. A few weeks ago, the principals were sent the new grading system with the new categories and weights. Some of the old categories were combined and some new categories were created. I can’t find it online anywhere, so here it is:

    GRADING CATEGORIES *GRADE PROTOCOL
    Formative Assessment – 0%
    Formal or Informal Pre-Assessments
    Assessment During Learning – 25%

    Skills Assessment (Warm-Up)
    Quiz
    Projects
    Guided, Independent, or Group Practice – 45%

    Classwork
    Project or Performance
    Homework
    Summative Assessment or Assessment of Learning– 30%

    Formal Post-Assessment Test
    Culminating Project or Performance
    Final or Culminating Exam
    A 90 – 100
    B 80 – 89

    C 71 – 79

    D 70

    F Below 70

    Notes: *English Learners (ELs) must not receive numerical or letter grades for the core content areas in elementary and middle school during their first year of language development. A grade of CS or CU must be assigned. This rule may be extended beyond the first year with approval from the EL Studies Program. English Learners must receive a grade for ESOL courses.

    Related Links

    Grading Protocol
    Grading Protocol Definitions
    K-5 Pass/Fail Rubrics
    District Expectations For Success
    Old Category and Grade Weights

    Cumulative Grade: 100%
    Class Participation & Classwork 40%
    Tests & Quizzes 30%
    Projects 25%
    Homework 5%
    Stan Jester | August 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Categories: DeKalb Schools | URL: http://wp.me/p3qjCw-CZ
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  11. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Parents, get thyself to curriculum night!

  12. teacher reader says:

    Having been part of the set up of the Charter District in NOLA after Katrina as an education consultant, I can tell you the charters were all about money and not about educating children. They are not better than the public schools in NOLA and now that there are only charter schools, children have long commutes to and from school and parents have little choice in what school their children are sent to. The failing schools are not closed, because those classroom seats are needed by parents even if they do not wish to put their children in these failing schools, they have little choice after names are drawn for the charters that they have applied to and did not get in.

    I wish that parents and citizens would really look into what charters really mean for our children. Very few truly offer a better education for our children. Most are making money for those running them. Failing charters will not close as long as there are no other options for parents. There is no choice unless your child gets chosen for the schools that you wanted, and most won’t. I won’t bring up the Teach for America teachers and principals that are also all over most charter schools across America.

    I really can’t believe that someone would want what has happened to education in New Orleans for the children of DeKalb. Do some real research on what has happened to education in NOLA.

  13. @TeacherReader
    “It’s all about the money” is a popular point in the anti charter crowd. The Superintendents and administrators of our school districts aren’t doing it for the money? There are a lot of people making a lot of money in our traditional school systems.

    I argue that Microsoft and Apple are all about the money too, but they make products people want. Perhaps the charter schools provide a service parents prefer as well. You said the charter schools aren’t better than the failing schools. Then you say people are clamoring to get into the charter schools and are stuck in the failing schools when they can’t get in. Sounds like that area needs more charters.

    (Excluding conversion charters) If you prefer to go to your traditional school over the charter school, then do so. Don’t take that choice away from other people. If a charter school really is less desirable, then few students will go to it and it will close down. Too bad that never happens with failing traditional schools.

    It sure is nice to have choices in schools. Unfortunately, most people don’t.

    DIO

  14. deecab2bad says:

    @teacher reader: If DCSS were Fairfax County Public Schools (VA), or Montgomery County Public Schools (MD), or even Gwinnett County Public Schools, there would be little outcry for charters here. Private schools in the area would also be significantly smaller. DeKalb teachers are begging for relief. Year after year of poorly executed programs. Year after year of blaming others for their mistakes instead of owning them and fixing them. Year after year of teachers having to shoulder huge burdens to shelter their students from the craziness and stupidity that comes from the central office.

    Something has got to give. And one more set of “parent involvement” meetings with results that the central office buries, either purposefully or through ineptitude? I’ll stay home and watch Jeopardy, thanks very much.

  15. dsw2contributor says:

    @teacher reader said “If DCSS were….Gwinnett County Public Schools, there would be little outcry for charters here.”

    Gwinett Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks was the keynote speaker at the DCS Summer Leadership Conference.

    If Teachers & Parents had heard his speech, they would have been convinced that changing just a few things could transfrom Dekalb into another Gwinnett.

    The Palaceburo that actually got to hear the speech likely dismissed it because, as Upton Sinclair used to say, “”It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

  16. dsw2contributor says:

    I found some press coverage of Angela Pringle’s public interview in Richmond County…. maybe I am misreading the quote, but she seems to have told a whopper in one story: “Dr. Pringle says in her district they have graduated furlough days where teachers who make more money have more furlough days than those who don’t.”
    Source: http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/First-time-public-hears-from-superintendent-finalist-271455491.html
    I thought the furlough days were district-wide; every teacher was furloughed on the days.

    Also interesting is this story, in which she denies the Eddie Long Daughter scandal:

    http://www.wjbf.com/story/26294491/rcboe-public-grills-superintendent-finalist

    Quote of two paragraphs:

    Her prior job was not without controversy and she offered information to the board that cleared her name from a 2011 investigation claiming Atlanta mega church Bishop Eddie Long’s daughter received graduation credits when she shouldn’t have.

    “Unfortunately, due to some of the things surrounding the family, it was taken out of context. It was thoroughly investigated. The response from the media was not posted in the archives. The reporter graciously sent us that response. And I pretty much would not be here today if there was any truth to it,” Pringle said.

    There’s more information about that Eddie Long scandal in this article:

    http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/education/2014-08-15/superintendent-finalist-answers-questions-board-members-public?v=1408140452

    Apparently, she gave the board a “transcript of WSB’s follow up story” from a story that WSB never posted on its website…. I hope the board actually bothered to contact WSB to make sure the transcript she gave them was actually correct and from a legitimate story that WSB broadcast.

    And another story:

    http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/Richmond-County-Schools-could-announce-new-superintendent-next-week-271481271.html

  17. Dekalb Homeowner says:

    Dsw2contributor, why do you keep referring, obliquely, to Gwinnett Superintendent Wilbanks’ recent stinging remarks to DCSS’ leadership, without indicating what it was that he said? You’ve referred to his remarks repeatedly on this site and on the AJC’s “Get Schooled” site, even challenging Maureen to print his remarks, but you won’t even give us the gist of what he said.

  18. Ella says:

    I disagree with the above writer who feels that the Charter in Fulton is a bad thing. At North Springs High School we had our own charter and are agreeing to be a part of the new Fulton School Charter instead of our own charter.
    The principals have a great deal of control about how their money is spend in their school.

    Ella Smith

  19. Stan Jester says:

    I’ll get it out there in a few days.

  20. In the MDJ their is on Aug 14 the story that Cobb county currently around 105k students +/- , with a much leaner palace. Is currently trying to make the decision to as to what kind of school system it is to remain. The article clearly states that if it chooses to remain a status quo district, as it and Dekalb currently are. If Cobb remains as is, it stands to loose $40,000 million and classroom and size waivers. This is just to stay the same, because the State is telling the districts they will not grant them anymore class size waivers after this year. The two choices are to convert to a system wide conversion charter ( which works great in Marietta or Decatur, I personally believe in Fulton it makes a mockery of what a charter school is about) , or an IE2 which is what Gwinnett has.

    Cobb county has basically dismissed going with a Charter system. Mary Elizabeth Davis, Cobb County chief academic officer sums it up this way, you have to set county wide achievement goals with a Charter system ( so my take on that is how do you set the same achievement goal for Walton that has like zip apartments and less than 5% free lunch income averages of above $80-$100k vs South Cobb that is a title 1 school, includes Six flag parkway, the Former Bankhead hwy, is about 99% minority over 90% free and reduced lunch. You simply can not have the same achievement goals). As Ms. Davis points out, that IE2 allows the district to set indivualized performance goals for every school in the district. The way I read the article, it is saying we must challenge ourselves to be the best which IE2 does. You basically, but your failing schools at risk of a take over to either private sector, parent groups, or other government agencies, if you don’t bring those failing schools up to being not failing within the goals in x number of years. So far only three districts have gone this more challenging route. Forsyth is the other local district that has chosen it with Gwinnett.

    There is a big difference between a whole Charter District and a real Charter school. That is clearly, that the big central office still has control over the Charter District. If all schools must meet one set of achievement goals. If folks in the palaces are setting the goals for every school in the district, rather than a volunteer school board of parents, teachers and administrators.

  21. midvaledad says:

    The decision to become a charter district was made by Thurmond and has NOT been voted on by the BOE. DeKalb has missed the deadline for choosing to be an IE2 district. So, this is the way forward. It wouldn’t have mattered if the decision was voted on by the BOE because they have voted for every, single, thing, Thurmond has recommended.

    I agree with what Howdy1942 and Atlanta Media Guy wrote about the uselessness of public meetings. Time and time again meetings are held to “listen,” but there is no listening. There is no responsiveness. Neither minutes nor notes are recorded. Nothing is posted to document what was heard by the administrator who held the meeting. Questions will be asked and never answered coherently. There has not been accountability or professionalism shown by the district for the last 10 years.The same people are still running things so why do they think we expect anything different.

    Since there is no accountability, the administration has no incentive to change their behavior. I hope the Georgia Charter School Association sends someone to all of the meetings to provide answers to the questions asked because we all know the district isn’t going to.

  22. @stan Jester; according to the parents I run into at Fresh market the answer is yes they believe Fulton is a Faux Charter. Even the conversion Charters prior like Ridgeview and Riverwood were Faux Charters. The control stil rests with the Central office. Riverwood had more independence and parental control before Avossa.

    Ever since he got his Districtwide Charter through, Avossa is no longer accessible to parents like he was his first year. He only took written questions from audience after a gun was brought to Ridgeview Middle. His administration prepared a ten most asked questions for him to read the answers at the meeting. Let’s say they were not what parents wanted to ask and answer. They wanted to bring up the bullies, the gangs, how minority children were not disciplined at all, parental concerns about line jumping, etc… On stage they had the “Stepford parent representatives of the school charter ” those chosen to be lockstep with the administration.

    So many experienced teachers and administers have been pushed out of the way, to bring in Avossa worshipers.

    Many believe the closing of the highest performing school the science charter, even though it has some financial, bookkeeping questions, was wrong. The district could have worked with them or given them time to get better, after all they were the highest performing school in the district.

    Many which Atlanta would have turned down the Atlanta classical charter, so it would have gone to State approval. Then those of us just over the Atlanta city line could have applied. Then again their were over 1,000 applications with just those in Buckhead and North Atlanta applying. We wish the Brookhaven Charter state application would include higher grades,right away, so our children could attend. The only alternate charters that are getting approved in Fulton are down in South Fulton. So many in Sandy Springs North want either City schools or Milton County. Those of us in the middle of the county have been left out we own the most expensive houses, yet we have the blight of poor Fulton county zoning for years. Most of us do not want to move to Milton or Johnscreek which is really the only part of the county with good schools.

  23. Stan Jester says:

    Ella,
    Whatever control the principals are given is at the discretion of Robert Avossa, the Fulton County Superintendent. It’s not written into the charter that the principals “must” have control. In a memo recently released by the state, it says from now on governing boards of charter schools “must” have the final authority in personnel decisions and financial decisions.

    Another Comment,
    I’m glad to see Fulton parents are paying attention. The state memo also applies to conversion charters. When conversion charter schools petition to renew their charters, they will need the public support of the entire metro Atlanta area. Most of the conversion charters are up for renewal in DeKalb.

  24. Stan Jester says:

    Performance and Problems of Public Education
    State Board of Education
    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    7:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Dunwoody High School

    State Board of Education member Barbara Hampton will hold a public hearing for citizens in the Sixth Congressional District on Tuesday, August 19, 2014. The meeting will be held from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Dunwoody High School, 5035 Vermack Road, Dunwoody, GA.

    The purpose of the hearing is to hear comments from interested citizens and educators within the congressional district regarding the performance and problems of public education. This includes hearing comments about the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts as part of the State Board’s formal evaluation of these standards.

    Persons wishing to speak should sign in upon arrival.

  25. DecaturMax says:

    Another “listening” tour is ridiculous since there is only one possibility left. I would rather hear their plan than suffer through a pathetic attempt to use political spin to give the appearance of choice.

    Too late for IE2 and not any admin interest or money left available to lower class size, so all that is left is a Charter district. There is no choice or public input on the “choice”since there is only option that is presently viable. How much is the listening tour(Spin) costing us in time and money?

    Why doesn’t the admin just come out and fully explain their plan verse wasting everyone’s time talking about a decision that has been made already.

    Very soon, we as a community need to start focusing on the new Superintendent. To push aside all talk about race and focus on a great candidate from outside the system and from outside of local politics. A superintendent that makes sure subordinates can answer questions at monthly school board meeting and will follow up. We focus so much on the school board, but they appear almost helpless. They can’t seem to get any answers themselves, nor can they force follow up without talk of micro-managing. Any idea when we can start talking new Superintendent and focus on this process? A true reform superintendent seems to be our only chance of meaningful change and funding the classroom first. Additionally, the blogging community looks like a bunch of wackos when a few people start focusing on race and describing candidate by the color and not by their qualifications. This is about a Chicago or Tammany Hall type political system protecting itself over the needs of the community. How do we break the hold?

  26. Refugee from DCSS says:

    Chicago or Tammany. Good examples. How were their holds broken?
    That’s your answer.

  27. d says:

    Actually – there is one other choice that hasn’t been considered because it “sounds” bad, and that is the status quo option. Status quo means all of Title 20 must be enforced. If we go with the charter option (which seems inevitable), the district can waive a lot of things – class size being the biggest one. The status quo option means the end of waivers that the county has relied on for years to balance the budget on the backs of the teachers and students.

  28. howdy1942 says:

    @Stan Jester – I truly appreciate your research and insight. You will bring a new freshness to the Dekalb County School Board. And I welcome you and look forward to your service. I have a few thoughts for you to ponder.

    As has been very obvious over the past few years, in particular, and throughout every post on this blog and witnessed by all the cityhood efforts, Druid Hills charter petition, and efforts in your own community for independent schools, the major issue that the Dekalb County School System faces is no support and no vote of confidence by a sizable portion of Dekalb County. In short, the DCSS has a trust issue. I’ve attended numerous meetings of the Dekalb County School Board, meetings sponsored by community organizations (such as the Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association), and meetings held by the school system itself. I’ve heard promises made, questions asked, and few responses from the school system. I attended the “first” round of meetings to “listen” to the public provide “input” to the structure of the school system. It was at one of its meetings that I heard the announcement that the District had already made up its mind and, by inference, that it really didn’t need to “listen” to the public. Now we are going to have another round of these “listening” meetings. Whatever happened to providing feedback on the first round of “listening meetings”? Forgive me if I sound cynical, by becoming so has been a process and not a sudden event.

    This school board seems to be holding its meetings in “echo chambers” where they only hear each other. The school board needs to get serious and recognize that it has a trust issue. The rising tide of disenchantment with the DCSS will only grow louder. The school system must stop trying to impose its arrogance on our community and find ways in which it can begin to make the public an ally and not an adversary. After 18 months in office, I am very disappointed that the current school board has not begun a search for a new superintendent. I don’t know when that will begin, but I’ll be following that process very closely. The last selection of Dr. Atkinson was a mockery and a study in how to get something wrong. We need to have an open, transparent search that selects the best candidate. And the vote of the school board needs to be better than 6-3. And I hope that you will begin the process of calling anyone, and I do mean anyone, out of order if race is ever again injected into any proceedings by the board or any comments made to the board.

    At some point in time, Dekalb County has to get its act together and move forward. That cannot be done with half of the County having such a bad view of the school system. I welcome you to this board and hope that you will be successful in winning over your peers.

  29. Stan Jester says:

    Howdy1942.
    Thank you for the kind words. I’m glad the people who give you a thumbs down are reading DSW.

    Flexibility Decision – DeKalb Schools Will Choose
    Like I said back in February … Because of the necessary realignment of the budget, I foresee DeKalb choosing to become a Charter System and only allowing limited schoolhouse decision making. Financial and staffing decisions under such a plan would continue to reside with the central office.

    Listening Meetings
    As discussed in the 09/25/2013 – MLA Presentation, one of their top priorities is “making the people feel heard.”

    Dr. Atkinson
    The vote was 6-3, like you said, with 3 voting against her. What do you mean when you say “the vote should be better than that”?

    Mr. Mayfield was voted out. That tells quite a story in and of itself.

  30. dsw2contributor says:

    Refugee from DCSS: Actually, the corruption in Chicago and New York (Tammany) has never gone away. Just last week, Chicago’s Deputy Commissioner for Transportation was indicted on bribery charges. Chicago politician Jesse Jackson Jr. has been incarcerated since last October after he plead guilty to wire and mail fraud. In NY, the Governor disbanded an anti-corruption panel while the panel had 15 cases pending against other NY politicians. One of those being investigated had used $137,000 of his campaign funds on unitemized checks written to “cash”.

    It’s different in NY and Chicago. Their corruption is simple, straight-forward and efficient — you pay a person X and you get Y — so things get done there.

    Dekalb is dying because its corruption simply doesn’t work. Things don’t get done here; instead, we squander millions on people who lack the qualfications required for their positions (that problem starts right at the very top), on do-nothing jobs, on “employees” who never bothered to set foot on DCS property, and on “legal fees”.

  31. Kirk Lunde says:

    Don’t forget, the district is still paying MLA $50,000 per month.

    Currently, the district has 2 law firms on retainer (MLA & Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough) and are paying 2 more to do specialized work (Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan & Drew, Eckl & Farnham).

  32. anothercomment says:

    Someone needs to ask the question how much would it cost to stay as a status quo district would cost it each year. I believe that DeKalb tax payers should know that. Since, Cobb County has been up front and Admitted that it would cost them 40, million dollars for their 105-109,000 student district, based on the waivers.

    Status quo would require the district to cut the class room sizes starting with the 2015-2016 year school year. To the State Maximums, without waivers. Of course, I want us to have what we had in 2000 when my oldest child started school with 17 students and an Aid in Kindergarten so I will vote for Jason Carter, Not Deal who keeps cutting education funds ( except in this election year). . The Districts were also required to spend 80% I believe under Barnes in the Classrooms. Oh what a big difference that made. Teachers, Para Pros, actually came first, not friends and family in the district offices.

  33. Refugee from DCSS says:

    “Actually, the corruption in Chicago and New York (Tammany) has never gone away.”

    Touche – great response.

    But as i said before – that’s your answer. There’s always going to be corruption in DCSS, just perhaps not quite so obvious or cavalier in the future.

  34. howdy1942 says:

    Stan Jester – The ideal vote for Dr. Atkinson would have been 9 – 0 and would have represented 9 sincere votes for her. I hope that the next vote for a superintendent will be 7 – 0, but I also want those to be honest votes and represent true unity on the part of the school board, not some fabricated attempt at “unity”. Had I been in Dr. Atkinson’s position, I would never have accepted the position given that 6 – 3 vote.

    Stan, I went to a meeting tonight in Tucker held by Interim CEO Lee May. The purpose of that meeting was to provide feedback from his earlier community meetings, inform the community about what he was doing, discuss the budget, and take new questions from those in attendance. He addressed the highly publicized ethical issues of the County Commission and he described what he has done. The County is conducting an audit of the Commission looking at 10 years of data. I don’t always agree with him, but I applaud him for taking his time and holding meetings such as this. Since he was appointed in July 2013, I have now attended at least five of these meetings. He wanted community feedback on the structure of the Dekalb County Government. He listened and provided feedback. He was present in a community called meeting about a zoning variation that the people who lived there opposed and Mr. May listened, took questions, took action, and conducted a followup meeting to provide results. That guy is listening and trying to make Dekalb a better place to live. While he stated that he prefers not to see new cities, he says he won’t fight them. Rather, he stated that he will work with them to find solutions to common issues.

    Why can’t or why won’t the Dekalb County School System do that? Why can’t the members of the school board do that? Why can’t or why won’t Mr. Thurmond do that? Sure, we are going to have some committee hold some hearings, but why won’t the school board or Mr. Thurmond hold these meetings? Why was there no feedback to the questions and thoughts presented at its earlier round of meetings back in the winder? Why did the DCSS go ahead and announce what it was going to do even as it was seeking the input of the public as to what it should do in structuring the DCSS? Is it wrong for the public to have such misgivings about this new round of meetings to “listen”? Is Mr. Thurmond so much busier than the County CEO that he doesn’t have the time to listen? Why can’t or why won’t the DCSS be honest with the public, conduct the audit of the school system to share with the public how taxpayer money has been and is being spent? Wouldn’t that be a good way to set the record straight? To his credit, he did hold meetings with the public early on and he did take questions but, to my knowledge, he never came back or never provided any answers to those questions. That is why so many in Dekalb want some degree of independence from the DCSS. As I said in my earlier post, the school board appears to meet in an echo chamber – they hear only each other. Unlike Mr. May, Mr. Thurmond is actively fighting efforts, such as that of Druid Hills, to find another solution. Why won’t he just work with communities such as Druid Hills, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, and others to find solutions mutually acceptable rather than just imposing those developed by his staff? Why does the school board just say “no”?

    When Vernon Jones was CEO, I had lost faith in the County, but people like Lee May have made a difference. As I say, I don’t agree with all of his positions, but I do support him and stand ready to work with him. Perhaps, just perhaps, the DCSS should look to his example.

  35. @anothercomment: DeKalb missed the deadlines for Status Quo and IE2 or EI2 whatever it is — the only choice left is charter system. We are certain the current leadership could not handle this level of autonomy and should not be given it. Seems to us they played the state – in a passive-aggressive way — “Darn – we missed all those deadlines – guess we’ll be a charter!” Do you really give charter status to people who can’t make deadlines?

  36. DeKalb County School District considering shift to charter school system

    Will DeKalb County become a public charter school system? School officials are pondering the idea and want feedback from the public to approach state officials about making the idea a reality.

    The school district would become the largest charter school system in the sate, if the district’s petition is approved by the Georgia Department of Education.

    “We want to get the public’s input on how we can make the petition for charter schools suitable for all parties involved—school staff members, parents, and of course, our students,” said DeKalb Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond. “I think this concept is innovative and I know it will have tremendous potential for our students and their development.”

    District officials are seeking input from the community on the flexibility that the potential system would bring to improve academic learning in schools. After receiving public input, school officials must craft and complete the petition for state review by June 30, 2015.

    Former School Board member Jesse Cunningham says the flexibility can lead to innovations in teaching students and governing schools.

    “The new system would be a good thing. If DeKalb goes to the charter system, schools would have more latitude on rules governing them. Schools could have their own committees comprised of principals and who the principals elect to make decision for the schools in their cluster,” said Cunningham. “For example, if MLK High saw a need for Saturday school, they would go to their principal and get it approved. It wouldn’t have to be approved by the state (Department of Education).”

    In 2013, the DeKalb School Board rejected a group of parents and educators who were seeking approval and funding for a “charter cluster” for Druid Hills High School and six feeder schools in North DeKalb. The board rejected the idea, saying that the cluster would drain money and resources from the district and could prevent some students who live in the community from attending based on criteria set up by cluster organizers.

    The DeKalb Schools District has set up five community engagement sessions, and anyone seeking to provide input is invited to attend, including parents, teachers and others in the community.

    Click the link above to read the whole article.

  37. Again >>

    The five public meetings will occur at 6 p.m. as follows:

    Region IV Lithonia High School, Aug. 26

    Region II, Lakeside High School on Aug. 27

    Region I, Dunwoody High School Aug. 28

    Region V Towers High School, Sept. 2

    Region III, Stephenson High School, Sept. 3.

    For more information, visit http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx or call 678-676-1200.

  38. Doraville volunteers needed for school task force

    Volunteers are needed for a proposed Doraville Schools and Education Task Force that will be formed in the near future. Doraville City Council gave the task force the green light at the Council meeting on August 18.

    Volunteer task force members will be asked to research and provide comprehensive and impartial reports to the Doraville City Council regarding the academic learning environment in Doraville. The task force will make recommendations on ways to improve the learning environment, with the intention of making our local school system more appealing to young families looking to move into the area.

    There are many talented and informed citizens in Doraville and this task force would be an excellent opportunity to participate in the future of the city.

    Interested in becoming a part of the task force, APPLY HERE. Applications must be received at City Hall by 4:30 p.m., September 10.

  39. And here’s a blog post by former board member, Don McChesney on the subject >>

    It’s good for me but not for you
    Posted on August 12, 2014

    Charters are such a funny thing in DeKalb. DeKalb has proven once again that it can take a great concept and royally mess it up. At the same time, a well drafted plan is rejected by the Palace staff. It’s such a shame.

    Click to read more >> http://www.donfordekalb.com/2014/08/12/394/

  40. And here’s a report on some $$$ going toward murals commissioned by DCSS for McNair MS and HS >>

    Muralist Phillip Parker transforms DeKalb schools into works of art

    If you’ve walked through the halls of a DeKalb County Public School recently, you likely have seen murals of mascots and more that were painted by local artist Phillip Parker.
    Parker’s artwork can be seen in schools such as Stephenson Middle and Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, Princeton Elementary and Shadow Rock Elementary in Lithonia, and most recently, Ronald E. McNair High in Atlanta.

    At McNair High, Parker has transformed the gymnasium into a coliseum with the stroke of a paintbrush. In the gym lobby, he painted a mural that features their mascot, a Mustang bursting through a wall. He also painted two students with a gold rope holding books and a globe, which can be seen in the school’s front lobby.

    When students return to Ronald E. McNair Middle in Decatur, they will find Parker’s handiwork. He has been working on a mural in the front lobby of the school. The mural, which depicts an astronaut in space handing a book down to a person, portray the school’s slogan for the 2014-2015 school year: “We will, we can, because we must.”
    Parker is set to begin working on a painting soon for the Ronald E. McNair Discovery STEM Academy in Decatur, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
    Parker got his start with art at his Kentucky high school when he drew his first mural, which featured the school mascot, the Colonel. Ever since, he has been inseparable with his brush, painting portraits of professional athletes, high school and college graduates and more. He also designs T-shirts and art plaques, and is owner of the Brush and Pen Gallery located in Stone Mountain.

    And all the while, the school system continued to neglect basic needs at Cross Keys — and we are certain there are no murals there. (McNair, recently approved as a career charter, with Thurmond on their board, is the same school the admin spent $25,000 on statues of mustangs at the front entrance).

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