Fernbank Science Center: Probably Sustainable as an Independent 501(c)(3)

Here is a suggested proposal provided to Crawford Lewis in 2006 regarding Fernbank Science Center (FSC).  This was created as a result of work done by the Institutional Development Sub-committee that was part of an overall committee set up by Lewis to look at the future of FSC.  This proposal was intended to be a discussion starting point

Lewis did nothing with the proposal.  Just like he ignored the written warning in 2006 that FSC was going to lose Fernbank Forest in 2012 if he did not act.

Things have changed now — at FSC and Georgia Public Broadcasting.  So, some of this proposal will read as very dated.  However, the important thing is that it provides a roadmap to FSC’s sustainability as a non-profit organization.   It is very sustainable through outside funding.  The late Dr. Ralph Buice wrote many successful grant applications to help fund FSC’s work.  FSC should also have a foundation to manage grant funds and seek more.

Scientific Tools and Techniques

from

Fernbank Science Center

delivered to all of DCSS and statewide through Georgia Public Broadcasting

The Scientific Tools and Techniques® (STT) Program at Fernbank Science Center (FSC) is an innovative magnet program available to 9th grade students in DeKalb County who show a special interest in mathematics and science.  STT® enrolls 180 DeKalb 9th graders each year; these students spend several hours a day for one semester immersed in science at FSC.  This unique program in science education incorporates classroom instruction, laboratory research, field trips, and individual study. Topics covered include aerospace, animal ecology, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, electron microscopy, geology, meteorology, microbiology, ornithology, physics, physiology, and plant ecology.  Classes for STT are held in both the Naturalist Center of the new Fernbank Museum of Natural History and Fernbank Science Center. The Fernbank complex is a unique partnership of the DeKalb County School System and Fernbank Inc., a non-profit corporation that oversees the operation of Fernbank Museum and leases the use of Fernbank Forest to DCSS.

Background

Fernbank Science Center was founded in 1967 as a partnership between DeKalb County

Schools and Fernbank Foundation, a 501(C) (3) non-profit.  FSC is a unique application of

formal and informal science education. As far as can be determined, there is no other science program of this magnitude involving a partnership between a nationally recognized museum and a school system in the United States.

Academic evidence indicates that the STT program could serve as a model for enhanced science education. Fernbank Science Center’s STT program was shown in the early 1990s to improve students’ grade point averages, increase the number of science courses taken in high school, and create greater likelihood of pursuing further study or careers in science-related fields.

Fernbank produces extensive educational programs ranging from vocational horticulture to aerospace education. Fernbank is a curriculum-producing partner with NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and produces curriculum for the program. As part of the SEMAA program, Fernbank pioneered the Parents Café program to involve parents in SEMAA activities while their child attends class. Parents Café provides continuing education in science and life and parenting skills.

 

Fernbank Science Center has more than 60 professional scientists and educators on staff; more than 2/3 of them have advanced degrees in one or more of the following disciplines: aerospace education, archeology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, ecology, entomology, environmental science, forestry, genetics, geology, the history of science, horticulture, meteorology, microbiology, neuroscience, ornithology, paleontology, physiology, physics, and science.

Critical Turning Point

However, FSC has reached a critical turning point precipitated by funding cuts, increasing costs of field trips for all students and transportation for STT students, lack of adequate instructional space and the growing realization that STT serves far too few students – only 2% — an average of about 9 students per high school — in a school system with more than 9,000 9th grade students.

Resolving the Crisis with Telecommunications

Digital telecommunications at Georgia Public Broadcasting can resolve this crisis and enable Fernbank Science Center’s STT program to be available to all DCSS 9th grade students, as well as offer STT instruction throughout all of Georgia.  What could say “Premier DeKalb” better than providing premier science instruction statewide?

Fernbank offers 12 units of instruction in STT – each unit approximately 9 days long, 2-1/2 hours per day.  Georgia Public Broadcasting could tape and edit each unit into engaging daily segments of instruction delivered via satellite and/or Internet webcasting by the highly qualified instructors on staff at Fernbank.  In the receiving classrooms, certified teachers would serve as facilitators / lab managers.  On-site teacher/facilitators would be assisted by teacher guides and classroom guides, containing lesson plans and labs, correlated to the Georgia Performance Standards and prepared jointly by Fernbank instructors and the certified educators on staff at GPB.

For schools that prefer to receive the instructional programs via satellite, media specialists are used to setting up their VCRs to tape and save programming.  Those who choose Internet webcasting and have a broadband connection can obtain the programs directly in their classrooms on demand.  Further, webcasting can be interactive, allows students to review lesson segments and enables students who missed a class to catch up – all on demand, via the Internet.  No taping or storage required.  All storage is in the GPB Digital Library.

Because each STT unit at FSC can stand alone, there is an opportunity to divide DCSS into 13 STT “clusters”, based on 9th grade sizes within each high school, and group classes in a central location within each cluster when specialized equipment must be used.  Students from each cluster might also make one or two trips to Fernbank Science Center for using highly specialized, non-transportable, expensive equipment or for instruction in Fernbank Forest or at Arabia Mountain.  Because each cluster would be studying a different unit, Fernbank instructors could amplify the instruction in person – at the cluster location or at FSC.  Also, because each cluster would be studying a different unit, some equipment could move from place to place, following the units. For example, during Weeks 1 and 2, the Ornithology unit might be taught in Cluster 1, while microbiology is taught in Cluster 2, geology is taught in Cluster 3, and so on.  At the end of the unit (approximately 2 weeks), clusters would rotate into new units of study.  So, for example, Cluster 1 might then study computer science, while Cluster 2 studies ornithology, Cluster 3 studies microbiology, Cluster 4 picks up geology, and so on.

Costs

For the most part, however, the equipment used by FSC in their labs is not particularly costly.  A lab in each school could contain all of the equipment necessary for considerably less than the burgeoning costs of diesel, school buses and bus drivers – and serve far more students, as well.  Meanwhile, effectively utilizing telecommunications and the Internet, the irreplaceable FSC instructors would also reach far more students – not just with FSC instruction, but also with information – for interested students – about independent study opportunities, SEMAA, and other extracurricular science education offerings.

Meanwhile, other Georgia counties could also receive the benefit of electronic instruction along with the prepared teacher guides and classroom guides, including lesson plans and labs.

The costs of making STT available to all DCSS 9th grade students would be well within the current costs to serve only 2% of a single grade, yet far more students would receive this instruction.  Further, if the costs for creating STT in this manner are absorbed by DCSS as the STT costs most certainly are now, then DCSS could recover some or all of their expenses by charging tuition for use by students outside of DeKalb County.  Further, because STT episodes would be “evergreen”, FSC instructors could look at expanding their program by creating STT for earlier grade levels.

GPB Education & Technology Services:  More Than You Can Imagine!

 Prepared by Sandy Spruill

February 17, 2006

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134 Responses to Fernbank Science Center: Probably Sustainable as an Independent 501(c)(3)

  1. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Dekalbite, another good post at 8:26a however a slight correction. My recollection is that Kittredge was the only stand alone magnet school. We did have magnet programs at other schools (I recall Canby Lane having a computer program among them) that attempted to draw white students to predominately black schools. Current stand alone magnet schools would be Kittredge (Nancy Creek) and Wadsworth as elementary high achievers and DESA and DSA as the elementary and high school arts school.

    Regretfully because of how teachers are allocated, some schools would not be able to provide the enrichment services magnets provide due to low numbers. For instance, several schools in North DeKalb have a larger TAG population than Title 1 schools. What do you do for the TAG student at a Title 1 school when there may not be enough at each grade level to create a class? As we do with taxes, a decision was made long ago to pool resources and establish programs at schools then bring qualified students to those programs.

    Something to think about that someone asked my years ago with respect to fairness. Vanderlyn has a large TAG population so should they be provided seats at Kittredge over schools that don’t have a large TAG population. I said yes simply because those parents pay taxes and should not be denied access from Kittredge because of the quality of their home school. Even though their child can get a quality education at Vanderlyn, the parents may want an additional experience for their child, one that they believe could be found at Kittredge.

    As I’ve said many times, tough decisions will have to be made. Not every child will have their needs met by the school system, unless the child is part of a federal program with compliance regulations (i.e special needs). Restructuring of the Title 1 program may mean some parents would have access to resources they now have access to. One can only hope that with these and upcoming changes, we will see an increase in student achievement.

  2. Dekalbite says:

    @Fred in DeKalb
    “My recollection is that Kittredge was the only stand alone magnet school. We did have magnet programs at other schools (I recall Canby Lane having a computer program among them) that attempted to draw white students to predominately black schools. ”

    Yes. As I recall as well Kittredge was the only stand alone building. However, Clifton was the Computer (Technology) magnet and it had it’s own physical wing, Performing Arts was housed in Avondale elementary and I believe the high school portion was also at Avondale High School. I don’t remember if it had its own wing or not. As I recall, they had their own admin and support teams. They all had very low pupil teacher ratios to “attract” an equal number of black and white students (thus the term magnet). All of the magnet programs were in south DeKalb with the exception of Kittredge that was in central DeKalb. Not too long after Kittredge was established, Brownsmill became the magnet school for high achievers in the south end of the county.

    After the consent decree was lifted, a reverse discrimination suit dismantled the idea of integration as a reason for Kitttredge to exist. It became predominantly white, and then moved north to West Nancy Creek. Wadsworth became the stand alone high achievers magnet for the south end of the county. Thus the original reason for magnet programs – integration – was abandoned and most parents who send their children to magnet programs have no idea of their history. However, the history is what drove their establishment and their structure just like there are historical reasons for the structure of Fernbank.

    History is what happened in the past, and while that is very interesting, times change and what may have worked in the past does not necessarily work today. We get stuck maintaining the status quo and refuse to entertain any other ideas.

    Much of the movement out of Title 1 schools has been administrative transfers, AYP transfers, and transfers to special programs and schools. If we do not make our neighborhood schools all over DeKalb stronger, then “choice” in the form of charters or a ever greater pressure to divide the county via a constitutional amendment will make DeKalb School System a relic of the past.

    It is interesting how everyone in DeKalb zeros in on Kittredge and Wadsworth as if a magnet is synonymous with high achievers. “Magnets” attract students with like needs, interests, and/or aptitude. Magnets programs in most parts of the country are varied. Art, agriculture, performing arts, high achiever, gifted, STEM, science, technology, mathematics, and finance are some of the magnet schools around the country.

  3. Dekalbite says:

    @dekalb watch May 6 7:55 pm
    “As far as I know, I said nothing about any number of students served. Neither does the STT brochure.”

    You may want to reread your post. It did say 180 students a year are served. Here is the quote:
    “STT® enrolls 180 DeKalb 9th graders each year; these students spend several hours a day for one semester immersed in science at FSC. ”

    The number has not changed. Here is a link to the DCSS website Fernbank Science Center webpage. This is a quote from that webpage:
    The Scientific Tools and Techniques (STT) program enrolls 180 DeKalb ninth graders each year; these students spend a semester immersed in science at the Center.”
    http://oldwww.dekalb.k12.ga.us/schools/centers/fernbank/

  4. lovesscience says:

    That is completely wrong. FSC had the exact same budget cuts that every other school in the system has had every single year. FSC lost the exact same number of positions each year that we had reductions. The instructional coordinator position was RIF’d last year.

  5. lovesscience says:

    there really is no science budget per se…I don’t think you understand how it works…

    The reason 8th graders can’t do science is because science isn’t taught in elementary school…they only focus on reading, writing and math. Fernbank Elementary does so well precisely because the demographics of those parents prize science so strongly that their PTA does fund a certified science teacher so that their students can at least get science once a week during specials and their staff works very hard to work it into their lessons on a daily basis. Until the “County” requires more of an emphasis on science standards (which are changing even as we speak), and, though I hate to say it, test scores are required in science…it isn’t going to matter.

  6. Recall the board meeting a year and a half ago when staff requested the annual budget for science equipment and supplies — $50,000 — for the ENTIRE school system. Shocked, Don McChesney asked the question, “Is this the full science supplies budget countywide?” To which the staff member answered, “Yes”. That’s 50 cents per child! Contrast that with the $7 million + spent on Fernbank. This is a very out of balance system.

  7. dekalbite2 says:

    @lovescience

    “That is completely wrong. FSC had the exact same budget cuts that every other school in the system has had every single year.”

    The numbers do not show that:
    FSC lost one instructional coordinator and their lowest paid teacher for around $165,000 in salary and benefits while the total expenditure for FSC personnel was $4,700,000+ (personnel and and salaries only – excluding transportation to and from the science center and building and grounds maintenance). This represented a 3.5% reduction.

  8. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    The problem here is more complex than money. However, when you are neck deep in alligators it’s hard to remember that the objective was to drain the swamp.
    Fernbank Science Center is an almost magical place with many instructors that are well qualified hard scientists with advanced degrees working side by side with top quality educators. Virtually all of these instructors have a passion for and love teaching. Each school day many of these instructors are found all over the county instructing in the classrooms of DeKalb County schools. Others are teaching “single visit’ classes at the Science Center or at places like Mt. Arabia, Stone Mountain, or Hidden Acres Nature Preserve, a DC park near Stone Mt. After the regular school day ends and on weekends, Advanced Studies students come from schools across the county (via their own transport) to Fernbank to take science classes in particular topics like Ecology, AP Physics, AP Chemistry, Ornithology, and others. Fernbank Instructors are also busy after school with students and teams who want to compete in the Science Fair, Science Olympiad, Envirothon, Robotics, or work on individual research topics. FSC instructors frequently meet after school and on weekends with teachers/students at FSC or their own schools to support local work with school gardens, nature trails, identification of plants, insects, etc., science club activities, recycling projects, and to exchange ideas/provide resources for science activities. Since FSC is losing the Forest lease this year, the FSC staff has worked out an arrangement with the DeKalb Parks and Rec. Department to teach classes in a number of DeKalb parks so that our forest programming will continue. Instructors are currently visiting these locations and will adapt or develop new programs for the upcoming school year.
    The point is that you cannot close the science center and disperse the Fernbank instructors throughout the county schools and improve anything. It will destroy the synergy that exists and only result in further destroying science education in the county. Science improvement in schools across the county has to come from leadership in the central office that will provide encouragement and incentive for each school to improve their science education. Fernbank Science Center is an amazing asset that is ready and eager to help.

  9. justwatch says:

    Fieldtrips are not going to be funded next year — so how will the students get to FSC and these new park trips. (Which I hear are problematic to arrange anyway.) I feel like no one who is advocating for FSC is really paying attention enough to understand the big picture. (SEMAA is gone as well for next year.)

    In nearly every other system, officials make sure that courses like AP physics and chemsitry are offered at every school. FSC has negated the need for this, but in reality it limits access to only those students who can get themselves to the center for the courses.

    FSC advocates would do well to advocate for large cuts in the non-teaching staff. That would be a start.

  10. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Hi Justwatch, While it is not well known, even by some school principals, trips to FSC are not considered field trips. Programs there are designed to fit directly into the school curriculum and are not restricted as field trips have been for several years now. Also, the AP and Advanced Studies classes are not designed to replace any offerings at the school campuses. They are provided as either an AP option taught by highly qualified instructors or, in the case of Advanced Studies, as elective studies for students seriously interested in pursuing a particular science discipline. Also, these look great on the College Application forms.

  11. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Another little known fact about FSC late afternoon/weekend Advanced Studies Classes is that some students attend by taking public transportation and instructors bend over backward to accomodate them when they need to. It is not unreasonable to expect students/parents to show some creative initiative in transportation.

  12. justwatch says:

    They are going to be considered as field trips next year, because the transportation budget has been severely restricted. A big part of the 40 million in unbudgeted costs for this year is from the transportation department.

  13. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Looking at the broader picture about FSC, DCSD, and DeKalb County, Fernbank Science Center has a long standing reputation in education circles across the country as a top notch, innovative place for school children to learn science. Even those who are derrogatory don’t dispute that. The whole argument aganist Fernbank is that it is an expensive luxury for a school system in financial trouble. However, if FSC disappears, what does that really mean for DCSD? We are now entering a new era of science and technology world wide. The nation is screaming for qualified graduates who can tackle problems like: developing alternative fuels, climate change, loss of biodiversity, global competetion in technology and computer science. DeKalb County has to have a way to attract new home owners, businesses, technology into the county. Nothing attracts new citizens or business to a location like a good public school system. Fernbank Science Center is a bright star in an otherwise rather gloomy situation on that front. Instead of getting rid of FSC, DCSD should be more fully integrating the science center, increasing support and advertizing Fernbank to attract outside funding and recognition for the county.

  14. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Also, Fernbank is currently funded at $4.7 million of the DCSD $759.7 million. That is 0.6% of the budget. I would argue strongly that DCSD is getting and will continue to get a great return on that small investment in the future of our children and the future of DeKalb County. Let’s don’t kill the goose that is laying golden eggs.

  15. dekalbite2 says:

    The mental picture is 28 admins and support personnel sitting in Fernbank doing less than this year as the Fernbank teachers go to the schools. Why are we spending millions to keep this building open? It is in the center of the Fernbank community. If it were in a less affluent and less influential community, it would have been long gone. Eugene Walker is for keeping this very expensive building open. Walker is very supported in the Fernbank community.

  16. dekalbite2 says:

    “It will destroy the synergy that exists and only result in further destroying science education in the county”

    Why don’t you talk about the “synergy” of 40 students in math, science, language arts and social studies classrooms?

    Are you fine with spending $500,000 a year in salaries and benefits for 5 FSC Designers and a Cabinetmaker while we spend only 50 cents a child per year for 95,000 students for science equipment and supplies? $50,000 total for 95,000 students in the everyday science classroom, but we can afford $500,00Ora year for these 5 non teaching personnel to handle the few exhibits at the center. What is going on? DCSS must get their priorities straight or we will be even worse off in student achievement – particularly in science.

  17. dekalbite2 says:

    “DeKalb County has to have a way to attract new home owners, businesses, technology into the county.”

    And how has that worked out for us? The attraction DeKalb has for science and technology resides at Clifton Rd. – namely CDC and Emory. The center is old and musty and behind in technology. Are we willing to spend the millions it needs to be the first rate center you speak of? It has been coasting for years on the reputation it had 20 years ago. It has not had any significantly new technology for many years. It is sad to see this once proud center brought so low. There is no money to keep it up to date.

    If we have all these millions to update and upkeep Fernbank Science Center, I would rather see a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school created. Now that’s something that will attract science and technology types to our county.

  18. dekalbite2 says:

    ” Let’s don’t kill the goose that is laying golden eggs.”

    By golden egg do you mean our abysmal science scores? Or is the golden part the salaries for 28 admin and support personnel (as many as there are teachers – that’s one admin and support for every teacher)?

    Close this outdated building and send the Fernbank teachers into the schools. They can teach many MORE students STT and AP classes and do outreach from school buildings and save millions of dollars a year in the process. If it wasn’t for the Fernbank community’s support, we would have closed this center a number of years ago.

    No forest, no SEMAA, and no up to date equipment. It’s just a very expensive building with millions in admin and support personnel cost we don’t need and can’t afford. The teachers are excellent, and we are past desperate for good science teachers in the schools. Save what is beneficial for students and jettison the rest.

  19. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Actually there are 2 administrators. Don’t know the exact breakdown on the rest of the staff but there is a scheduler, a bookkeeper, some exhibit folks that create all the exhibits including traveling exhibits, build storage cabinets and fabricate a wide variety of instructional materials, technicans to keep all that old stuff like the Planetarium and Observatory (that students and the community really like and still excites them to learn about science) running, custodians, and security guards. I too am very disturbed at the desperate situation in classrooms around the county, and Fernbank Instructors and staff are working hard, often on their own time and with their own resources to help students and teachers out. Destroying Fernbank Science Center will not help that, in fact it will make things worse for those teachers. It seems that anger is clouding vision and your mission is just to attack FSC regardless of the consequences to DCSD.

  20. justwatch says:

    There is a list of who all works at FSC. Perhaps you aren’t aware of all the non-instructor positions, but there they are:
    Administrator – Director, Fernbank $98,568
    Administrator – Administrative Coordinator $91,884
    Administrator – Administrative Coordinator $91,884
    Support Maintenance $56,402
    Support – Technical Support $66,088
    Support – Support Services $6,790
    Support – Security $48,093
    Support – Security $47,150
    Support – Security $46,929
    Support – Secretary $39,427
    Support – Secretary $39,427
    Support – Scheduler $43,516
    Support – Photographer $67,380
    Support – Media Specialist $91,320
    Support – Maintenance $47,150
    Support – Maintenance $34,276
    Support – Maintenance $44,836
    Support – Maintenance $33,616
    Support – Maintenance $32,426
    Support – Maintenance $39,276
    Support – Head Custodian $52,091
    Support – Geologist $75,430
    Support – General Administration $50,520
    Support – Gardener $44,836
    Support – Exhibit Designer $77,892
    Support – Exhibit Designer $69,516
    Support – Exhibit Designer $84,720
    Support – Exhibit Designer $63,576
    Support – Designer/Photographer $66,096
    Support – Custodial $31,048
    Support – Custodial $29,310
    Support – Custodial $31,048
    Support – CTSS $49,194
    Support – Clerical $7,679
    Support – Clerical $37,485
    Support – Bookkeeper $27,707

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  21. dekalbite2 says:

    Here is a link to the personnel at Fernbank Science Center:
    http://fsc.fernbank.edu/faculty.htm

    Readers and commenters can see the teaching and non teaching staff.

    The teachers at Fernbank are excellent, and they can be placed within the schools where they are sorely needed. Is there anyone who thinks we don’t need excellent science teachers in the classrooms of DeKalb County?

    There is no anger. The passing of Fernbank Science Center is disappointing and sad for everyone in DeKalb County. It signifies an era in our county where most students mastered the basics in science, and the Science Center was the enrichment piece of a stellar education. We could easily afford the provide this enrichment, and we were so proud of our state of the art, modern science center. That’s just not the reality of today. Is anyone ready to take on this center and spend the millions of dollars to make it what it should be? If we let it go, perhaps that can happen.

  22. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Are you suggesting that getting rid of all the support staff at FSC will somehow improve the situation in science classrooms across the county? I too am horrified at the circumstances in some of the classrooms out there. But attacking the science center will not solve that problem and I am certain that getting rid of FSC or gutting its staff will further degrade the academic situation for DeKalb science. Ask yourself how those classrooms got into that situation. Most likely it results from science being a low priority on the DCSD agenda over the past few years because the Criteria for school testing and evaluations did not include the science curriculum. There have been a number of initiatives from FSC to improve science curriculum in the county which either never got off the ground (no interest or support) or arrived DOA at the county office.

  23. dekalbite2 says:

    “Are you suggesting that getting rid of all the support staff at FSC will somehow improve the situation in science classrooms across the county?”
    Are you suggesting spending $500,000 on Exhibit Designers and a Cabinetmaker has improved the situation in science classrooms across the county?

    ” I too am horrified at the circumstances in some of the classrooms out there. ”
    Why would the teaching staff be gutted? Fernbank teachers are excellent, and DCSS certainly has enough turnover to absorb them. Horrible circumstances for kids will only be changed by teaching staff. These are the students who most need high quality science teachers.

  24. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Interesting comment. I had no idea that Emory and CDC teach school children. Fernbank creates and delivers science education to young children all over the county. When my children were small I moved to Oak Grove Elementary district because it was a small school which I visited and became convinced that they could get a good start there. I was shocked a few years later when I recommended it to my young friends at church and found out that home prices in the OGE district had soared out of reason for them. The realtors had begun to advertise the little elementary school and the success it was having. Prices skyrocketed. Nothing attracts new families to a community more that good primary and secondary schools.
    It would be great to have a stem school in DeKalb. FSC could help support it. But there is no money to do that. FSC is old and perhaps a bit musty since their budget has been steadily cut for the past few years. The FSC students (and FSC coached students) who have been successful in competetions in the Science Fair, Robotics, Science Olympiad, Envirothon, etc. and those who were accepted to top colleges around the country, those who now have (or are getting) advanced degrees in a variety of science disciplines and are working in diverse fields of science and technology might argue with you about FSC coasting for the past 20 years.
    Fernbank instructors are passionate about teaching. There is no greater job satisfaction to be found on the planet than to watch young children when the spark of understanding lights up their eyes. It is a real thrill to get to kids while they are young and get them excited about learning science; not just having them read about it and take a test, but to do things that really get concepts across. Much of our educational system had gotten out of wack. We have made it really tough on classroom teachers and this new draconian round of cuts will only make it worse. But this is not about just the money. It is about the children. Fernbank Science Center has been cut a lot and is struggling, but it still works. The classes that students get there are still top notch most of the time, and the Fernbank instructors and staff are putting their heart and soul into making it work for the kids. Their success shows that it is still working.

  25. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    No, by “golden eggs” I mean all the students who have come through Fernbank Science Center (and still are) who go on to study science and now have successful careers in a variety of science fields. Why else do you think that the “Fernbank Community” would continue to support the science center. I only wish the science center as an entity could be better integrated into the DCSD and, with cooperation and a broader base of support, more efficiently serve the whole school community, as they continue to try desparately to do.
    As to the rest of your comment, when you kill something and the vultures come to pull it apart, what’s left (regardless of how you try to preserve it) will never be the same.

  26. dekalbite2 says:

    ” There is no greater job satisfaction to be found on the planet than to watch young children when the spark of understanding lights up their eyes. ”
    There is no greater job satisfaction than to see ALL students succeed yet half of our 8th graders do not know even the most basic science concepts.

    “Fernbank Science Center has been cut a lot and is struggling, but it still works.”
    Fernbank Science Center has not been cut a lot. It has been protected by the Fernbank community.
    Readers can see for themselves that there are 28 admin and support for 28 teachers:
    http://fsc.fernbank.edu/faculty.htm
    The five Exhibit Designer positions and Cabinetmaker for $500,000 a year have remained intact while science teachers in the regular classrooms have taken on 35+ and are spending money out of their own pockets to fund basic equipment and supplies. Can they realistically go up to 40 students a class and still have much learning going on?

    Fernbank needs $2,000,000 in renovations, but where is the money coming from? This money situation will not get better. It will be worse next year. We need to look at everything that is not a regular education math, science, social studies or language arts classroom and if we can do without it, we need to do it. We MUST have some reserves.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    @itsbrokeletsfixit
    Other metro school systems have many students who go on the study science and now have successful careers in a variety of fields – all without a science center.

  28. justwatch says:

    So are you advocating for the same 5 million to be spent on FSC next year — with no cuts?

    Do you understand that this time next year, the system will still be broke- – cutting only 73 million dollars leaves us with no reserves at the end of next year? How will we pay for FSC, after a tax increase that maxes us out on millage rate and all the other cuts that will be gone? Some fixed costs will rise — health insurance and liability insurance for example, how will we bridge the gap then.

    This is the new reality in DeKalb. How does FSC fit into it?

  29. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Actually I am suggesting just that. They are the FSC staff that fabricate traveling exhibits that school teachers across the county check out to illustrate science and nature for school children. They make signs for nature trails, and for gardens, bird feeders and bluebird houses (little kits for the students to put together) for use in school gardens and a variety of other things to support science instruction across the county. And I am also saying that classroom instruction is made much more interesting for students by having outdoor classrooms.
    As for destroying the science center and sending the FSC Instructors to the schools, it may suprise you to find out that many of FSC’s most educated instructors are not certified teachers and thus would not qualify to go to a school classroom. It is those instructors who provide much of the science content and support other teachers both at FSC and in the schools with high quality science. They would be lost to education if the science center closes. However, with cooperation and support from DCSD and a restructuring of the student teaching load, the FSC instructional staff might be able to offer more staff development opportunities for DCSD classroom teachers.

  30. Miss Management says:

    Nobody is ‘attacking’ Fernbank. Just trying to point out the unaffordable expense of it. We are broke. We can’t keep the Mercedes for one while cramming families of six into the Corolla.

  31. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Of course they do! However, I feel certain that the number of students from DeKalb who go into fields of science is substantially enhanced as a direct result of FSC.

  32. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Actually, since you ask, I would suggest that the FSC budget be increased for next year, and that the FSC Staff be tasked in a cooperative effort with the whole district to develop grant proposals to increase funding for DCSD for programs in science and math. Let’s leverage the unique asset we have at FSC to increase DCSD funding.

  33. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    I don’t know the actual figures, but, if memory serves, over the past 3 years FSC has been cut over a millon dolllars. That sure seems a lot to me!

  34. justwatch says:

    That is funny — increase funding for FSC. Twice in the last 5 years, FSC has been on the chopping block and twice, no behavior has changed in terms of their own development efforts (fundraising). If they are spared this time, I expect nothing will change again. They like flying under the radar.

  35. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    In order for the school system to recover, we must have a recovery in the DeKalb Housing/real estate market. For that to happen, something must provide an incentive for people to want to move to and invest in DeKalb. The school system is the obvious place to look for something to attract new homeowners. If we destroy what does work in the school system, how are we going to attract these folks?

  36. dekalbite2 says:

    “However, I feel certain that the number of students from DeKalb who go into fields of science is substantially enhanced as a direct result of FSC.”

    We need more than “feel” here. Lewis “felt” like our students were doing very well. He “felt” like Pope was doing a good job. Our BOE felt like we were okay in finances after Tyson raised class sizes and eliminated the teachers’ TSA. That’s what comes when you don’t look at the data.

  37. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    Your figures of instructors and support staff at FSC are incorrect. It seems that you are one of those folks described as “My mind is made up, don’t disturb me with the facts”
    I, like you hate the fact that the teacher/pupil ratio is going down. Quality education depends on teachers being able to have interaction with all of their students, and a teacher having 35+ students in a class is totally wrong. I don’t support it, I can’t believe our school district is doing it and I apologize to any and all students who have to endure it. Parents should not stand for it. However, until the public understands the importance of education and will not tolerate it, I don’t know how to fix it. I do know that FSC has nothing to do with it and that getting rid of FSC will most certainly NOT FIX IT. I also know that there are a whole bunch of instructors, staff, and a couple of administrators at FSC who would love to help develop some innovative ideas it help fix it. I also know that getting rid of Fernbank Science Center will make it worse.

  38. dekalbite2 says:

    @ justwatch
    Yes. Over TWO years ago, the Fernbank Elementary School Counci wrote an open letter to the Board of Education asking BOE members to leave Fernbank Science Center with no cuts while urging them to:
    1. Shutter neighborhood schools – “Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. DeKalb has a long history of small neighborhood schools, an arrangement we can no longer afford.”
    2. Redistrict to consolidate other schools (except no redistricting for Fernbank ES – they fought that successfully as well) – “…the consolidation of additional schools should realize a significant savings. And, we believe the savings would be greater when you account for shortfalls in state funding (based on 450 elementary school minimums) ”
    3. Raise taxes (called “revenue enhancements”) in the letter – “Revenue enhancements may also be necessary…..”

    The Fernbank Elementary School Council said in very fluent and elevated language:
    “At the same time, we believe that Fernbank Science Center is one of the DCSS entities best positioned to seek longer term third party external support, particularly in the absence of any other science museum or center in the close-in Metro Atlanta area.”

    In “plain old English”, they said that Fernbank just needed some time to become self sustaining.

    Very effective stall tactics. Yet it’s two years later and $10,000,000 (really around $12,000,000 to $14,000,00 million if you count the transportation and facilities cost) of classroom funding directed into this entity, and NOTHING has been done to transition Fernbank Science Center to a non profit.

    The top administration at Fernbank may have felt that the powerful Fernbank community would protect them and shield them from all cuts ad infinitum (and that may still be very well true). In addition, they probably realize that no non profit would take on as many admin and support (28) as there are teachers (Fernbank’s greatest asset). DCSS has long been a jobs program, and this is just as prevalent at Fernbank Science Center – otherwise why would there be as many admin and support as there are teachers, particularly since the teachers are actually in the schools so much of the time?

    Past performance (doing nothing to seek funding from the private or public sector to become a non profit organization) is in this case indicative of future gains. Taxpayers and most importantly students cannot afford to wait yet another two years for this cost center to be shifted to the private non profit sector. It didn’t happen when they had all that time to figure this out. Another two years down the road, that would be another $10,000,000 to $14,000,000 spent that is sorely needed to close the funding gap.

    The Fernbank Elmentary School Council letter:
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/letter-from-fernbank-elementary-school.html

  39. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    So, do you have data to contradict my comment or do you just want to insinuate that I am incorrect? I just visited (by happenstance) with a Georgia Tech Graduate that stated (without prompting) that he got interested in science because of programs he took at Fernbank Science Center.

  40. itsbrokeletsfixit says:

    How did you get from a budget of 4.7 million to “$10 to $14million????? How on earth do can you believe it will benefit our school children to destroy Fernbank Science Center. Or is this just a political power play to prove that you are the dominant force in DCSD?

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