The Myth of Local Control

by Nancy Jester, District 1, DeKalb County (GA) Board of Education

Let’s set the record straight about who controls education in Georgia. Superintendents and their administrators do. Local boards of education do hire the Superintendent but once in place, these educrats are in the driver’s seat. The legal framework in our state reinforces the supremacy of the superintendent’s position relative to a board.

School system administrations choose who works in the system and what they do. We often hear that the board and administration are a “governance team”. Sadly, “the team” is dominated by board members with “Stockholm Syndrome” or they are accomplices in the abduction of local control. All of this power comes with a hefty contract that insulates superintendents and gives them a golden parachute at taxpayer’s expense even if their tenure is marked by failure. Make no mistake about it.  Local control is superintendent control. If you agree with the superintendent and they are making good decisions for your particular community, you’re probably content. But, if they are not, you are in a constant struggle with little to no redress.

The charter school amendment is perceived as an existential threat to the gravy train for educrats throughout the state. That is what the fight is about. The “local control” that is hailed by the current purveyors of the fine educational products in Georgia, is “educrat control”. They push the buttons and pull the levers and try to make you believe that “stakeholders” have a say in it all. Despite state legislation on school councils, parents don’t get a seat at the table when selecting a principal for their school. In the struggle for power and control, the educrats have failed you and your children; all the while collecting fat paychecks and doling out six-figure jobs and lucrative contracts to more educrats. If you realize that your voice as a citizen is so diminished within the current power structure of education, you will know that voting for the charter amendment is one of the solutions.

Parents deserve more choices. Communities deserve more input into how their schoolhouses are run. Charter schools are innovation incubators and are governed by a volunteer group of parents, teachers, and community members. That’s local control. They get to choose the companies that provide services to their school. If they do a bad job, they will lose their charter and parents will leave their school fora better product. If they are responsible and create a valuable product for their community they will thrive and our children will get the education they deserve. This responsiveness is completely missing in education today. In fact, in DeKalb we have some schools that have been labeled “failing” for as long as a decade, yet remain open with no replacement of staff. All of the “turn around” plans, accountability measures and excuses brought to us courtesy of the “local control” we have today do nothing to rid our system of failure or make it more efficient, helpful and valuable for the students and community. Please join me in supporting real local control. Please join me in advocating for kids and taxpayers in DeKalb County and throughout our state. Please join me by voting YES on the charter school amendment.

This article is re-printed with permission.  It originally appeared on Nancy Jester’s blog,

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
This entry was posted in Fraud & Corruption, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Georgia Education, Nancy Jester, SACS/Accreditation, Superintendent Cheryl Howell Atkinson. Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to The Myth of Local Control

  1. GTCO-ATL says:

    Did anyone attend the state of the system address in Dunwoody recently? Any reports?

    Tucker High School is next up, on Oct. 2. 6 – 7:30 p.m.

    We all need to compare notes to determine if Atkinson’s message changes based on her audience.

    Does anyone know if Jim McMahon is still alive? We have concerns as no one has seen or heard from him since the night he won the election. Not a word on his Facebook page and he hasn’t responded to requests to file his paperwork with the elections board. Not trying to be an alarmist or anything. We are really, truly concerned.

  2. GTCO-ATL says:

    The state BOE also has authority. The Superintendent of the state BOE has spoken up against the ammendment, but he has been threatened with litigation so he has to remove the letter from the public domain. Isn’t that nice? See how these politicians are already going at each other over this money and the voters haven’t even approved anything, yet? The state wants to silence the Superintendent of the State Board of Education from giving the public his opinion about a possible ammendment to the state constitution that is about education and has direct impact on the future of education. His opinion is a waste of taxpayer funds? a waste of time? They obviously want to control our money AND the information we have available to us that would allow us to make an intelligent voting decision. Isn’t America grand?

  3. Marney Mayo says:

    I remember clearly that there was a recent AJC article that discussed at length that much funding to support the bill was coming from national sources. Media Maters is itself a watchdog organization with an agenda of its own. So we are still down to the question of are you more willing to presume goodwill toward organizations promoting what are considered “liberal” or “conservative” positions. “traditional education deliver models” vs. “restructuring”

    Unfortunately, at the end of the day what we each really want is the best we can get for our own kids. I just tried to run and estimate of the financial numbers for a group of parents that are thinking about wanting a charter …so sad.

  4. guest says:

    Well Marney Mayo, I am most definitely liberal in the sense that I am in favor of maximum individual freedom, guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties. Oddly, that sounds pretty much like a conservative viewpoint until you get to the government part which according to Norquist, should be drowned in a bathtub.
    But without that government protection, our civil liberties will begin to disappear.

    That is why I am against an unelected commission granting privately run public charters. Especially in a state run by conservatives that believe in every man for himself, trickle down economics, and a rising tide lifts all boats even if they are full of holes. Within a decade we will have an even worse system of schools run on the basis of race, class, and profit making than we have now, but we will have no chance for control because we gave it away.
    Those with will have, and those without will not have. It’s not like that hasn’t been proven time and again.

    Instead we should all do our best to take advantage of our governmentally secured right to stay on top of our elected board (which this blog does a fantastic job of by the looks of the files available up top) and INSIST that they be AVAILABLE and PREPARED to answer questions from the public regarding the budget, TRANSPARENT in how they pick and promote their choice for superintendent, and HONORABLE in how they comport themselves while doing the people’s business of providing for a quality education for ALL of our children.
    And if they aren’t, fire them and keep on firing them until they get the message.

  5. dekalbmom says:

    ALEC is very much behind the Charter school amendment. Alice Walton is finacially backing the GA effort. Vouchers: Most metro private schools at the high school level cost about $17,000 to $20,000 per year. The Howard School tuition is about $24,000 per year. I have a friend who teaches there and she said Yes, they do have some financial aid but you must disclose all your assets and your tax returns to qualify and your income must be very, very low. Woodward, Westminister, Lovett, Pace, Paideia and the other schools in this mix are very hard to get into, they have a long waiting list and have no reason to take a state voucher.

  6. nelly nadda says:

    dekalbmom: If we had education vouchers worth actual dollars, plenty of appropriately priced private schools would pop up. Our private school is very reasonable in price at the elementary school level and they are considering expanding into middle school and high school if there appears to be a market for it. I am currently on a steering committee that is helping with the research to determine the feasibility of it. But, I can tell you from an elementary school perspective, a voucher would likely cover the full cost of our school which would be a godsend to my family since right now we are having to pay high taxes AND pay for a decent education at a private school. We don’t live in the upper crust neighborhood like Womack and friends, but we don’t qualify for a transfer and don’t particularly want to drive across town for a charter that has no proven track record and could be canned at any time. The worst thing you can do to a child is to shuffle him or her around.

  7. booksrkool says:

    @ Marney Mayo
    Your comment, “Some of the worst teachers they have experienced have been both certified and “highly qualified”. Certification is neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee learning in the child–else why would all those home schooled children generally test as well as they do?”

    What home schooled children are you talking about? I was a GED examiner for 4 years within the last decade and I can count on two hands the number of home schooled kids that actually passed the GED tests.

    In fact, if I compared home schooled kids and grandmother types who took the GED, the grandmothers’ passing rate was much higher than kids who were home schooled. Now that’s just an observation from a former GED Examiner. But I digress…

    Vote no for charter schools and fire your state legislators.

  8. @books: Not sure whose tests you were scoring, but here’s a 2009 report showing that generally, homeschooled kids do very well on standardized tests:

    [T]here is new research showing that the average home-schooler who takes standardized achievement tests is doing very well. The study, commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association and conducted by Brian Ray, an internationally recognized scholar and president of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), is called “Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics.”

    The study included almost 12,000 home-school students from all 50 states who took three well-known standardized achievements tests — the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Test — for the 2007-08 academic year. The students were drawn from 15 independent testing services, making it the most comprehensive home-school academic study to date.

    The results reinforced previous home-school studies conducted over a period of 25 years.

    Five areas of academic pursuit were measured. In reading, the average home-schooler scored at the 89th percentile; language, 84th percentile; math, 84th percentile; science, 86th percentile; and social studies, 84th percentile. In the core studies (reading, language and math), the average home-schooler scored at the 88th percentile.

    The average public school student taking these standardized tests scored at the 50th percentile in each subject area.

    Read more: HOME-SCHOOLING: Outstanding results on national tests – Washington Times
    Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

  9. dekalbmom says:

    @nelly, If your child’s private school can launch an affordable and quality middle and high school, then they should do it. I doubt that you would have any problem filling it with students as some of the tuition rates in the metro area are ridiculous. But public funds designated for public schools (that are terribly underfunded, thanks to cuts by the state and a poor economy) should not be diverted to private or religious schools through vouchers. And I support the concept of charter schools- I do not support the proposed constitutional amendment for the reasons previously stated.

  10. hopespringseternal says:

    But here’s the thing: those of us who find this ballot question a violation (on so many levels) are NOT questioning the concept of charter schools, choice or the like. We know better than to allow the conversation to be hijacked on the “choice for kids” plane. As far as this ballot question goes, it hardly matters whether I believe in charters or not (I do). This isn’t a question asking me if I believe in charters. It’s a question asking me (no matter how clunky it is worded [deliberately??]) if I want to set up an unelected slate of people who will serve at the whim of some folk who may or may not have the interest of children at heart depending on the application, the region, the politics of that region, the weather or whatever mood they’re in that day. So when I answer this ballot question as I vote, I’m voting neither FOR nor AGAINST “charters”. I’m voting on not being selective about my rights and responsibilities.

    Very early in this thread @WearyWorker reminded us that we’re already being prostituted by the edu-pimps. How very true. No argument whatsoever. But I can’t allow for the “convenience” factor when it comes to rights and responsibilities of government and voters. In other words, I’ll veer off the trimmed-government track when it’s convenient for me to do so?? No. I’ll support an added layer of bureaucracy when it is convenient and because some state legislators decided to make it easy for me?? No.

    We do not need manufactured bureaucracies sponsored by people who are patting themselves on the back because they conveniently came by some statutory language which overcame the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision.

  11. booksrkool says:

    @ DSW This is a rural/metro county. The students were required to fill out a questionnaire about the kind of education that they received, public, private or home school. Without this questionnaire completed students could not test. At the end of the testing day, we would scan the answer sheets and we saw results immediately. The essays were scored separately. I saw the results first hand and without bias.

    There may be pockets of groups doing very well. Perhaps these particular students are being taught by former classroom teachers but the “average Joe” isn’t doing that well in a home school environment. I stand by that statement.

    BTW, The article states that the study included 12,000 kids. Is this even comparable to the United States public school system that has 49.8 million kids?

  12. Gardenerontheside says:

    @dsw Could you try to get new numbers on the cost per student per school? With all the cuts I’m betting that a) the costs are less and b) the disparities are flattened. Remember that there are no magnet points anymore.

  13. Books: No, it’s not comparable to the total number of public school students. However, it’s a group of people who have chosen to educate their children their own way, and it appears that most are doing fine. The point simply is, no size fits all and allowing a small portion to homeschool, use private schools or start a charter school isn’t really going to cause much damage to the public schools. After all, the public school system no longer has to educate that student. It just seems greedy that the public school should want to keep the money for that student or in fact, claims it outrageous to lose money for a student they aren’t educating. That’s just my perspective and I tend to lean more toward supporting independent action rather than bureaucratic thinking. There will still be plenty of money left for public school districts – charters will still remain a very small portion of the total.

  14. We have made many Open Records Requests. We will look into that one again. Please check the DCSS FILES tab under ORR and ORR Responses. It’s taking quite a lot of work and response time to get answers.

  15. howdy1942 says:

    teacher/taxpayer says it so well. Nancy Jester is a breath of fresh air to the Dekalb County School Board. She is just so right. For years now, this School Board and the school administration have drummed on and on, leading our advance to the rear in Dekalb County. I am still on the fence about the Charter School Amendment but one thing is for certain – I am very displeased with the Dekalb County School System’s leadership and administration. I commend the teachers for continuing your work despite the poor leadership.

    The nightmare of this school administration system is going to end – soon! If it won’t change itself, then our residents will find an alternative. The thought of paying this Superintendent $275,000 and her top echelon of $150,000 and up while keeping the old guard at the same high-paying salaries with no remedies for the public is mind-boggling. The procurement process for Superintendent was a joke! Leaked information and an incomplete vetting process were typical. I can’t believe that there were so few candidates for such a high-paying position and confidentiality could not be maintained with just three candidates. This School Board and this administration are not held accountable for results and they have no performance system. Everything is very neatly controlled and orchestrated from the inside with the public blocked. That is going to end.

    I have been associated with for-profit education for some time. Believe me, they are results oriented. Teachers and administrators perform or they are gone. There are no lucrative golden parachutes. Pay is based on results. Get those results and you are rewarded. Don’t get the results for long and you are gone. Pay is commensurate with experience. No extra pay for those “mail-in” college doctorates – doctorates are expected to come from reputable colleges that are accredited by real agencies. These schools listen to stakeholders – parents, students, teachers, and the public.

    I commend Ms. Jester and I appreciate her comments. Keep up the good work!

  16. Boy – our state school educrats sure are campaigning hard for their jobs – ahem – against charter schools —

    Posted: 7:03 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012

    School board members complain that Georgia School Boards Association campaigned against charter amendment during training

    During what were supposed to be training sessions, the Georgia School Boards Association instructed school board members on how to oppose the charter schools amendment, some school board members have complained.

    The complaints, which could later be part of a legal action against the GSBA, highlight the rising intensity in the battle over the proposed amendment to Georgia’s constitution, which has drawn national attention as a focus of the argument between more school choice and the need to protect traditional public schools.

    GSBA’s opposition to the amendment during the association’s annual conference in June “really crossed the line,” said Nancy Jester, a DeKalb County School Board member who was there. “I was really shocked.”

    But GSBA Executive Director Jeannie “Sis” Henry said it is the association’s job to “provide information on issues related to the roles, responsibilities and concerns of local board members,” and that’s what was done.

    “The Constitutional Amendment is certainly one of the most important issues board members have faced in years and superintendents and school board members have a responsibility and a constitutional right to express themselves as individuals and elected officials on issues of public concern,” Henry said.

    GSBA, a trade association that collects dues from school boards and is one of a few groups approved by the state to offer mandatory school board member training, has also sent them anti-amendment e-mails, school board members said.

    “That’s a blatant example of them going beyond advocacy and going into the world of telling people what they should and shouldn’t support,” Cobb County School Board Member David Morgan said.

    Georgia law bars elected officials from using taxpayer resources to participate in political campaigns.

    [Once again, it’s against the law — but so what? There are no repercussions.]

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