Charter school clusters – a possible alternative to city schools?

Click the link below to read about Druid Hills latest effort to become a charter system.

Druid Hills parents may use charter law to gain control over school cluster

Parents from Druid Hills High School and the middle and five elementary schools that feed it are moving to activate a state law that allows a buffer between school “clusters” and district leadership.

The parents, responding to the recent DeKalb County school board crisis, are the first in Georgia to file notice of plans to use the three-year-old high school charter cluster law, which lets parents and school employees create a governance board buffering them from the local school board and superintendent.

Following public discussion with the new superintendent, Michael Thurmond, Mike Jacobs and Dan Weber spoke at the Tuesday, March 26 Brookhaven City Council meeting about activity at the legislature and the charter school cluster law respectively.

>>Click here to watch the video of the Brookhaven meeting

What do you think? Is it a viable alternative to start a charter cluster? Is it a better solution for some communities but not for others? We aren’t really certain yet, but are doing some research. Please post your thoughts in the comments.

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90 Responses to Charter school clusters – a possible alternative to city schools?

  1. ursokm16 says:

    The committee at Lakeside is not sure the actual benefits are worth the considerable effort involved. There are certainly PR benefits and the concern over real estate values might drive this, not necessarily education.

  2. The Stephenson Community has already begun the process. The Stephenson Community Council sits on the steering committee. The letter of approval for us to become a conversion Middle School was approved in January. We are working diligently to make “Charter” our reality. FInd out more by visiting http://www.stephensonmiddlecharter.org.

  3. Kingsley Driver says:

    There is growing interest and concern in Dunwoody. This sounds like a great possibility that needs to be explored, by everyone. There is a group in Dunwoody looking into this but they really don’t have many answers nor do they share what they know or what they are doing. It will be important for them to have more transparency and provide weekly meeting minutes, updates and time tables for them to get approval from Dunwoody parents and homeowners. One major complaint that has been discussed is that several of the self appointed group were involved with the last two redistricting fights here in town. We all know how disastrous and divisive the back room deal that led to the academy proved to be. Those people should not be part of his group at all.

  4. Dunwoody Thinker says:

    Great point Kingsley Driver. The guy heading the Dunwoody Charter committee brought Dunwoody the failed academy program and wants to be in control of upcoming redistricting. Parents outside of Vanderlyn need to keep a close eye on the true intentions. And if control of $$$$ and hiring/firing staff and admin does not come with Cluster status then a Cluster is a waste of time

  5. NOTICE OF DEKALB BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETINGS

    The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday, April 1, 2013:

    2:00pm Work Session
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    3:00pm Committee of the Whole
    Cabinet Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    5:45pm Community Meeting for Public Comments
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    7:00pm Business Meeting
    J. David Williamson Board Room
    Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
    1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
    Stone Mountain, GA 30083

    Meeting information can be accessed online by going to: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair
    DeKalb Board of Education

  6. concernedmom30329 says:

    The point about controlling the money and hiring are key. As well as control over general budget prioritization. I suspect the Dunwoody group doesn’t have many answers as this is an untested path.

    Did you all see the article in the AJC, which says there is no appeal process.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/druid-hills-parents-may-use-charter-law-to-gain-co/nW4xj/

  7. Kim says:

    As I confessed in my exchange with Dan Weber at the Brookhaven event Tuesday, I have not done my homework on the new law. In listening to his briefing, though, it did occur to me that there may be a real drawback from the County perspective.

    It is hypothetical because we have no history or empirical data to reference but my concern would be the impact on overall County plant capacity and attendance line management. I doubt anyone would challenge my assertion that this has been an area of particularly bad performance by our system. I wonder if anyone can assuage my concern that a bevy of charter clusters dotting the landscape of DeKalb wouldn’t exacerbate these problems.

    My thought is that charter clusters would become even more “immovable objects” than their already well defended attendance areas. It’s only an intuitive response but it seems natural to me that there would be even less flexibility in attendance line planning and capacity planning in these scenarios. As such, it seems a dis-service to the taxpayers who would be footing the bill for an even more inefficient system than we have now in terms of plant and capacity management.

  8. This is from Amy Power’s new FB page “Druid Hills Charter Cluster”
    Here’s her post about a new Druid Hills “charter cluster”.

    “The Druid Hills High School cluster of schools currently is exploring the potential benefits of petitioning to become a “charter cluster” of schools. Charter schools are public schools and receive all the funding that non-charter schools receive, but two words distinguish them from public schools as they exist today: autonomy and flexibility. A charter cluster of schools would be governed, not by the local board of education (in this instance, DeKalb), but by an independent Board of Directors with ties to each one of the constituent schools. A charter cluster would have waivers, or flexibility, from certain state and local rules and regulations, in exchange for a higher level of accountability for increasing student achievement. Charter schools use this flexibility to implement innovative or unique programs or models in order to provide educational opportunities typically not available in public schools as they exist today.”

    [We’re not sure if this is accurate information… we’re researching.]

  9. LAKESIDE CITIHOOD MEETING:
    From the AJC —

    Expert on new cities to discuss Lakeside

    Oliver Porter, a consultant who helped shape Sandy Springs and most of the new Georgia cities that followed its creation, will address the question of Lakeside at a meeting Monday.

    The Lakeside City Alliance is hosting the event, which will include a Q & A session on the proposed city for north-central DeKalb.

    The meeting runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. [Monday, April 1] in Milligan Hall at Clairmont Presbyterian Church, 1994 Clairmont Road, north of Decatur.

    More information: http://www.lakesidealliance.org.

  10. Dekalb Cynic says:

    Let’s look at what Amy Power’s White Country Club Clique has actually done for Dekalb:

    — A rebuild for Fernbank while other schools (in south dekalb) have been closed.
    — Trying to segregate Dekalb by splitting out their schools (Druid Hills) in a private charter.

    This it’s not about race? Ask the Negro network: http://blog.donfordekalb.com/2013/02/04/179/#comment-818

  11. The people in Tucker are sadly not able to focus on their schools right now as we are having to defend our borders in some kind of strange turf war like West Side Story, the musical, only without the great singing and dancing. Hmmmm…. maybe the DeKalb School of the Arts will consider an adaptation of our book one day. Once we write the book, that is.

    Good luck with your schools and all that. We wish we could stay and help you work things out with the school board and all, but we’re sure you are in good hands. Or, at least 6 pair of good hands plus Thurmond’s, that makes 8. Minus the three elected and Tyson, leaves you with only 4. Whew! 4 Good Hands.

    Oh yeah, if you want to play a game on Tucker Patch that will test your ability to recognize various neighborhoods now in the battle zone of the former and current board members (McChesney for Braircliff, Womack at Lakeside, McMahan at Sagamore) then check out this on the Tucker Patch: http://tucker.patch.com/blog_posts/where-am-i-today-thursday-march-28

    And, remember, we still have an ACTIVE build schedule for cell towers even though it appears the contracts expired or were never signed. The construction looks like it is due to begin sometime in May, but Margaret Harris in Atlanta near Briarcliff could happen any day. Stay alert and contact us if you see strange activity: sayno2celltowers@yahoo.com.

  12. howdy1942 says:

    I also admit that I am not very knowledgeable about charter schools. Maybe they offer some hope – maybe not. Right now, I am interested in doing three things. First, I want to find common ground – and there is a lot – to unite Tucker and Lakeside in order to promote success at becoming an incorporated city separate from unincorporated Dekalb. Second, I want to strongly support the bill in the legislature that would allow the formation of new school districts in Georgia. There is simply no good reason that I know for Georgia to arbitrarily stop the process of forming new school districts when that is the desire of an incorporated city. Third, I want to see us, Lakeside and Tucker, form our own school district that would be totally free and independent of Dekalb County. I firmly believe that this is in the best interests of our children and our residents.

    The critical factor is that we must separate from a system that has totally failed our children and our people. We have gone from being one of the top 5% in the nation to now being the only system in the nation on probation. There is an election next July that offers the prospect of returning our school system back to this downward spiral. We must free our community from ever being at risk of being subjected to the rule by people like those on the board that led us into this mess. I want those who live in our community to manage, control, and direct our schools, those who know our community’s values and want our school system to reflect those values.

    I’ve been appalled by statements made by Dr. Eugene Walker. He has repeatedly played the race card, even as late as this week in Maureen Downey’s column. He has hurled insults and misstatements at those of us living in North Dekalb, accusing us of being “elitist” in considering charter schools and stating that we had “rather separate than integrate”. Honestly, can you look at any school in Dekalb County and say with a straight face that it is not integrated? Why are people that are considering charter schools “elitist”? Moreover, Walker appears to be more concerned about protecting his rights than those of our children, rights that insure that they have to a quality education. He is entitled to his opinions and the people of his community are entitled to vote for him and elect him to whatever office. Sadly, he was the leader of our school board and his thinking was ingrained into its thinking and actions. That is why we must take action to forever separate ourselves from that kind of thinking and that is what we want to become separate from – that kind of thinking.

    While I do live in Tucker, but outside of the proposed Lakeside City, I want to work with the Lakeside City Alliance to promote it goals and objectives and include Tucker. I just hope that we can do that. I simply don’t think that remaining a part of unincorporated Dekalb County is in the best interests of our community of Tucker.

  13. Embarrassed Employee says:

    WSBTV is reporting that AGAIN the board is going to balance the budget on the backs of the schoolhouse personnel, principals, teachers, and paras were listed for cuts. This does not motivate me to go to work today, it reinforces why there’s no reason at all to continue to push myself, when the bottom line shows they really could care less.

  14. Haven’t seen that report, Embarrassed. Can you share a link?

    I did find this report though:
    Judge issues order to stop jurors from getting hearing over special grand jury

    In DeKalb Schools, we call these citizen endeavors things like the “Blue Ribbon Task Force”, the “Citizen’s Task Force” and public “Charrettes”… all efforts designed to trick the public into thinking that they have a voice – only to be ignored in the end as these citizen reports and recommendations are summarily dumped in the trash. Looks like our county leaders and even our courts do the same thing — waste the time and energy of the good citizens of DeKalb.

  15. And here is another report of a student who through no fault of his own may have his whole future destroyed — due to a lack of follow through in our school system — and a total disregard for this student’s pleas for help.

    Grade mix-up could cost student scholarship

    Willis reached out to the school district repeatedly but did not get a response.

    We’ve heard that line many times before. Another case of the citizen – the “customer” – being flat out ignored.

    In fact, we are aware of another extremely similar, though unpublicized, case of a student who, a few months ago, actually lost a 4-year, full-ride scholarship because a DeKalb County School System (DCSS) mistake went uncorrected. The student’s parent (single parent with limited income) began with the principal, who lied and said s/he “did not have the authority” to correct a mistake made by the school staff. The parent then went up the “chain of command” — one person at a time, waiting weeks and sometimes months to get answers from each one, with all saying they “did not have the authority” to correct the mistake — all the way to Atkinson.

    This “chain of command” with “no authority” included Rachel Ziegler who is getting a free PhD and a free car — all courtesy of DCSS. March, Howe and Atkinson would not even respond.

    In fact, this parent took a day off from work and sat outside Howe’s office for 6 hours, asking for 15 minutes of Howe’s time since she tried and could not get an appointment with Howe. Howe sent out her secretary to say she was “too busy” to see this parent. This is the same Howe who, we now know was “too busy” to locate and confirm that DCSS had received and distributed millions of dollars of textbooks.

    BTW — the parent was polite, respectful and had ALL necessary documentation showing mistakes that were made by DCSS employees. Further, this parent had limited to one (1) page the timeline and explanation of what happened, as well as who in the “chain of command” had already been seen with their responses (i.e., “no authority”).

  16. mawrites says:

    So often the resources and energy of parents are siphoned off for “education improvement” that results in a lot of hard work but no change for the better. This charter cluster idea sounds good on the surface if it gives more local control over the curriculum and class size, etc. But it seems to me the problem we are faced with is that DeKalb County Schools had so much taxpayer money to spend for so long that the controls on its budget became too loose and open to corruption and misspending. The recession forced more fiscal scrutiny but the district still has not responded by cutting unnecessary central office personnel and wasteful, ineffective spending. I don’t see how Charter Clusters will solve that problem. Does anyone else?

  17. DHMS Parent says:

    Hold on Dekalb Cynic, this says please be respectful. Your comments about Amy Power and the country club are ridiculous, you dont know what you are talking about. This is about kids education, period. Becoming a charter does not segregate anyone, they keep the same feeder schools-do your homework on the demographics in this particular cluster. And why are you after this cluster? From what I can see, several schools and clusters are trying to become charter clusters for the benefit of the kids and education, what makes Druid Hills so sinister? And come on its 2013, why are you making this about race?

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  19. dekalbite2 says:

    “Asked how he will stem the exodus of unhappy teachers from the system, Thurmond said he will show them greater appreciation and eliminate unnecessary tasks. “I can’t offer more pay,” he said. “I have directed the people at the senior level to inventory what we are doing. What things we can eliminate, we will eliminate.””

    “Thurmond said DeKalb’s property digest fell from $25 billion to $18.9 billion between 2008 and 2012, a drop of 24.9 percent. And the state cuts continue.”

    But he neglects to say that the millage rate was raised and that DeKalb pays spends more per pupil (including low income students) than most other metro systems including those with comparable poverty levels.

    If we are spending at the top of the per pupil rate while our class sizes remain higher than other school systems and our teachers are compensated at a lower rate than other school systems, then where is the money going? Not to teachers who directly instruct students. That’s why parents keep asking Mr. Thurmond these questions about why he can’t reduce class sizes or provide competitive compensation to the personnel who are responsible for directly instructing students and improving student achievement – the core business of the school system and the ONLY reason the school system exists.

    If we spent less per pupil than other systems, it would make sense to pay our teachers lower and have larger class sizes. But when we spend more per pupil and pay our teachers less and have larger class sizes, it is clear that the money is not ending up in direct instruction in the classroom. It’s as if Thurmond doesn’t understand that the business of learning occurs when a teacher directly instructs a student, particularly in low income areas.

    Why is a smaller percentage of our per pupil allotment spent on the teaching salaries than other school systems?

    You can’t spend more per pupil than other systems on admin and support and still have the money to compensate your teachers. Thrumond needs to explain this one with specific numbers:
    https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/dcss-spending/the-cost-of-maintenance/

    https://dekalbschoolwatch.wordpress.com/dcss-spending/the-cost-of-security/

    In additon, we are still spending $3,000,000 a year for Fernbank Science Center, a center that has 20 teachers almost exclusively teaching outreach programs in the schools while 20 admin and support personnel stay behind (e.g. three highly paid Exhibit Designers, a Cabinetmaker, 3 Recptionists, 3 Security Officers, etc).

    Each school (magnet, theme, and regular ed) and department (e.g. MIS, Security, Maintenance, etc.) and non teaching position (e.g. Coaches, Coordinators, Special Ed Lead Teachers, etc.) needs to be analyzed as a discreet cost center to see where we are in relation to other school schools and systems to see where expenses can be reduced. The savings needs to be returned to the classrooms so that DeKalb can compete for the most qualified teachers and students are not crammed into the learning environment like so much refuse.

  20. howdy1942 says:

    Why in the world aren’t those grades stored in a central computer and accessible by officials at Southwest Dekalb High School? What are we using – paper? This is 2013, you know! Computers have been around for a long time. The Dekalb County School System is supposed to be one district. The grades of every student should be stored in a database and easily accessible by individuals within the system having the authority and need to do so. Maybe the school board needs to ask the superintendent to inquire about this from Brantley and report back with what happened and do we, in fact, have a system to take care of this.

  21. dunwoodyunited says:

    I can’t help but think that it would be nice if Nancy were there now while they try to make a budget. Glad some of the others are gone but still.

  22. thedeal2 says:

    DHMS parent, Cynic didn’t introduce race, Amy Power’s comment from Don Mc’s blog did. So did Don’s blog. Then again, so did Michael Thurmond earlier this week. Race permeates everything in this county. It is used as an excuse, a justification, a defense, and a threat.

    As for the DH charter cluster, no surprise you aren’t speaking negatively since you stand to benefit. The entire purpose of the charter cluster is to gain any degree of distance from the buffoons at the central office. Amy Power has not tried to hide that part of the agenda. It isn’t really about specific programs or initiatives. It is about giving parents and those within the charter cluster more local control. That isn’t a criticism. It’s the truth.

    Now, whether Amy Power and her group are a country club set might be considered a judgement. Anyone who has dealt with the Fernbank crowd on anything school-related knows that they are a step above in terms of power, money, influence, and determination. That can be negative and positive. They are definitely in this for themselves, but there might be some residual positive effects for other groups if DH and Fernbank do all of this work and others can follow in their footsteps. As long as their efforts do not undermine other efforts to improve the entire county nor give them an extra advantage that is due only to their money and connections, it should be okay.

    Given that they have a direct line into board plans and thoughts via Orson, though, my guess is something shady is going on. They already rigged SPLOST to get a new building when they certainly are not greatest in need. They were buddies with Walker when it benefitted both of them. Now they wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. I’m sure the most recent policy changes that Orson proposed will somehow positively impact Fernbank, DHMS, DHHS, but we will never know until it’s too late. They are also very smart.

  23. DHMS Parent says:

    Thedeal2, Amy p on Don’s site is not Amy Power though clearly someone would like us to think that. For any of the folks out there that know the real Amy Power know that would never come out of her mouth. Its not who she is and I can also tell you that the parents that are giving blood to the schools are doing it with the very best of intentions, better education, accountability from our central office and helping to better a way flawed and corrupt system-which will enable kids for years to come to not have to accept a public education where they don’t come first. And you are right she is very smart and why should a group of parents that are tenacious about making things better be a negative to anyone? Whatever happened to all boats rise? In this cluster, Three of the five elementary feeder schools are Title 1, the middle school is Title 1 and most likely when that moves up to the HS it will become Title 1-not a country club. You are right that race permeates everything in our county, but from where I sit, my 8th grader is color blind. Isn’t that the hope for this generation of kids that they don’t draw lines between their friends because of color, economic differences, religion, etc? And sadly no one has given Orson a chance to see what he can do without berating him at every step. I know him, he is in this for all of the kids, it does not benefit him to fix one small part of this ailing county. He is in this for education reform and let me tell you if anyone can even scratch that surface in this system, he can. Please give the guy a chance to help bring around some change. and splost? Who knew it could be rigged-seems unlikely to me.
    Fernbank is an overstuffed, outdated school that thrives because The principal’s priority is the kids, the teachers and education. Shouldn’t we be looking to recreate that in all of our schools instead of settling for principals that don’t have those values? Again, accountability, we all demand more of our public system, our rights as citizens and taxpayers……take a page from a winning book, not hire because we are stuck with our players!

  24. Murphey says:

    Anyone want to comment about the Item 4 in Monday’s BOE Work Session, in which Kathy Howe asks the BOE to go back to the traditional calendar for 2013-2014?

    I like the idea, but again, DCSD is yanking staff and parents around by proposing to change the calendar very late in the game.

  25. The more that I read about Common Core, the more nervous I become, and feel that this is where parents should be putting efforts for school reform. It’s much more than “improving standards.” Not sure that I want my child to be a testing machine, or that I want the school district spending money to gather data not only on my child, but my family. I am not buying the improvement in standards either, as I was taught as a teacher that the standard is the minimum that a child should be taught, not all that he should be taught, which is what I faced working in DCSS. The way math is taught in Common Core will have a parent’s head spinning, having a husband that is a mathematician, he can’t get over the math teaching and understands why we have so few American Students who are capable of earning PhDs and advanced degrees in fields that require rigorous math skills.

    Living in the Druid Hills Cluster, I don’t see what they are wanting to do as making the schools better. Not every child or family wants their child in the IB program, which is already available for students. I’m not seeing anything innovative or new here, and hope that this charter is turned down. I don’t trust these parents, especially when one said that the money that has to be paid to the district off the top of the budget, is not that much money to worry about and acted like grants grown on trees to make up the difference. Don’t trust this group of parents and hope that people sending their children to the schools in this cluster, have eyes wide open. This same group of parents brought us Marshall Orson, and I’m not seeing him as better to what we had before yet.

  26. Weary worker says:

    I noticed that the proposal for an amendment to allow new school districts never made it out of committee. If it is proposed again next year and passed the popular vote it would not be until 2016 until a new system could even try to start. This is a possible dream but it won’t happen before I’m retired.

  27. dekalbite2 says:

    @DHMS Parent
    “And sadly no one has given Orson a chance to see what he can do without berating him at every step. I know him, he is in this for all of the kids, it does not benefit him to fix one small part of this ailing county. ”

    Yet Mr. Orson has shown himself as only interested in the Fernbank area. He even said to a parent group meeting that now that he is elected he will be for all students. So does that mean he was not for all students before?
    “Orson stated his actions as a parent at Fernbank were, at the time, what was necessary to support his interest at Fernbank, but he is now committed to working with every community in his district to help them accomplish what they want with their schools.”
    http://tucker.patch.com/articles/dekalb-schools-the-plan-is-there-is-no-plan#comments_list

    In his open letter to the Board in 2010, Mr. Orson recommended closing neighborhood schools and cutting classroom resources while keeping Fernbank Science Center and magnet programs shielded from budgetary cuts. He was for redistricting until it came to Fernbank Elementary, and then redistricting was off the table for just for his neighborhood school. He recommended increasing property taxes even as DeKalb had one of the highest millage rates in Georgia and the lowest achievement rate. He said Fernbank Science Center would be self sustaining if given more time and that the fiscal problems we had were only temporary. This formal letter to the Board did not show a concern for all students, nor did it show any real understanding of the financial cliff DeKalb was on.

  28. howdy1942 says:

    @Weary worker – I think I have some good news. The bill to allow a vote on removing those eight infamous words from the Georgia Constitution was introduced this year and will be considered in next year’s legislative session (2014). If it makes it out of committee and gains a two-thirds vote in each house, it will be on the November 2014 ballot. I hope that the Dekalb legislative delegation, for the most part, will unite behind this and I hope that Governor Deal will support this change. I had hoped that somehow we could fix the Dekalb County School System. Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been shocked at the behavior of the three new members of the board that took office on January 7, 2013, and the statements by Jay Cunningham and Eugene Walker since then. The very fact that at least two of the three new members voted to pay for the lawsuit to sue the State, that all three voted for that “governance training”, that all three voted for that severance package for Dr. Atkinson, and the fact that the election scheduled for July 2014 could well return some of the very people who led us into this mess – all this has convinced me that there is no hope for the Dekalb County School System. Accordingly, I am working within our Tucker community to support cityhood and to support changing the Georgia Constitution. I applaud Michele Henson for dropping that Tucker cityhood in the legislature yesterday. I sincerely hope that in two years, we will have a clear path to putting the Dekalb County School System behind us, forever separating ourselves from the likes of that former board. I do make an exception for Nancy Jester and Dr. Pamela Speaks. But the prospects of the remaining four joining the three who took office on January 7, 2013, is just too much.

  29. We are interested in this item as well —

    C. 10. Southwest DeKalb High School Renovations & Capital Renewal A/E Design Firm Approval

    How many times has Southwest DeKalb High School been renovated? We are fairly certain that in almost every SPLOST this facility has received funds.

    And, to think that Cross Keys which was build in 1956 only received enough money for basic renovations, etc. to include the the new technology/art wing. This tech school move to CK was a separate item at one time – yet somehow it became part of CK budget for improvements. And, there was not enough money to fix the field, repair the track or build an auditorium for these kids. Now, THAT’s discrimination. Further, as far as we can tell, Cross Keys has not yet had a principal or area rep that advocates for them.

    We are wondering what the total spent on SW DeKalb for SPLOST renovations over the years has been… it must be astounding. Anyone know?

    Here we go again!

  30. dekalbite2 says:

    @DSW
    “How many times has Southwest DeKalb High School been renovated? We are fairly certain that in almost every SPLOST this facility has received funds….Now, THAT’s discrimination. ”

    Not really. SWD HS has had very poor renovation jobs starting with the first SPLOST. The SPLOST 1 renovation lasted 2 years as almost all students sat in trailers. In the end it cost more to renovate SWD HS than it would have to tear down and rebuild it. It was a terrible situation for students and teachers. The high ranking administrator who oversaw the SPLOST 1 construction was extremely politically connected, but the fallout from the job done on SPLOST 1 forced him into retirement. I think if you asked SWD HS parents and students and teachers, they would tell you that they have borne the brunt of some very shoddy construction work done over the years.

  31. bettyandveronica1 says:

    normal calendar, school system and no early release!

  32. Terry says:

    Well, I sure hope the Clewless Crew have all been paying attention to what is going on in Atlanta Public Schools!!! Can we now PLEASE get those same Legal Eagles to deal with DeKalb’s mess??? 45 years?? WOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!! It’s about time the law caught up with that attitude! Now it needs to get Lewis, Pope and all the rest of this crowd! JUSTICE. I AM surprised nothing has been said about it here???

  33. DeKalb Observer says:

    The APS news is stunning. I’ve been traveling and it is big national news. This is where DeKalb was headed. It seems like with these educrats, anything beats actually putting the resources where they are needed to help children learn. Cheating, lying, whatever it takes, as long as it doesn’t require putting the $100,000 per year Beverly Hall spent on her driver and security detail. She and her ilk seem to think the government trough is ever-full and don’t get basic math to the extent they understand that when you take it from this pile, there is less in this pile.And heaven forbid they actually look at effective teaching and learning and do the work to ensure it’s happening across the district. I still don’t understand how these poorly educated people (Lewis, Atkinson, Hall) manage to land themselves jobs that pay $300,000 when they would make maybe $40K in any other field, given their skill set.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/aps-officials-to-begin-surrendering/nW72c/

  34. concernedmom30329 says:

    I don’t think Hall was poorly educated. I think she was tasked with an impossible job and she ignored the many warning signs that things were askance. She had real degrees and probably too much ambition. It is important to remember that the Board of Education that hired her was elected with tremendous support from the Atanta Chamber of Commerce and they demanded results. Rather than be honest about improvements being incremental, Hall demanded overnight miracles. In fact, one of the principals that was fired was told that the improvement at Carver High school was too incremental and that wasn’t what Hall was interested in. The cheating in Atlanta has been going on even before Hall arrived and before NCLB. If you look back at ITBS scores, you can find schools with scores that made no sense. Hall was smart enough to know that something was wrong.

    Lewis and Atkinson were hired by Boards of Education that wanted to control them. Those Boards wanted Superintendents that would do their bidding. Lewis “grew up” in DeKalb. His limitations were well known and many parents went to their board members and begged them not to make him permanent.. But board members like Lynn Cherry-Grant and Bebe Joyner wanted someone that wouldn’t shake things up too much. We all know the Atkinson story, though I think her cleaning house upset the apple cart and she brought in some icky folks, she was never qualified for the job.

  35. Weary worker says:

    The testing is a big part of the problem. It brings out the worst in people. I can’t think of any other form of testing or inspection that is done by the individuals who will be affected by it. Building owners do not do their own safety inspections, nor do restaurant owners. Having teachers testing their own students was insane, attaching monetary rewards to testing was asking for criminal behavior. Sadly part of the reason for the teachers handling the testing was that this was an unfunded mandate on the part of the US DOE.

  36. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Terry I think we have had two out of three grand juries call for DCSS investigations. DeKalb DA, Robert James said, the DCSS BOE could police themselves. I know of several more indictments that should rain down on DCSS but we need to wait for the Clew trial. Robert James has been busy lately replacing long time experienced prosecutors who have fled to Cobb County.

  37. howdy1942 says:

    Regarding the projects at SWD High School, that is what happens when you have little or no project management. And the quality of the work done is probably why we keep having “renovation” projects there. Again, poor quality is one result of poor project management and that seems to be a common thread among the Dekalb administration.

    The news about Beverly Hall and the others indicted is very sad. But their alleged conduct and abuse of people is very troubling. SACS found the same kind of intimidation and abuse in the Dekalb County School System. My perspective is that corruption in the Dekalb School System is widespread and deep-rooted. Given the statements made by District Attorney Robert James, I don’t place much trust in him to get to the bottom of the mess. In my letter thanking Governor Nathan Deal for the actions he has taken and his courage to stand firm, I have asked him to appoint the same kind of investigation team that was appointed to investigate the Atlanta Public Schools. I think that is what is needed – an investigation led by an outside, independent, and unbiased party that has no relationship to the Dekalb County School System. Only when that is done can the people’s confidence begin to be restored in the school system. I am hopeful that the Board appointed by Governor Deal will be able to preserve our accreditation and make some progress to refocusing the emphasis on the classroom as well as cleaning up the mess that is the Dekalb County School Administration. I also encouraged Governor Deal to find a new means for selecting members of the school board. I’m not optimistic about good candidates offering themselves, let alone good candidates who are qualified to be on the school board actually being elected. As Governor Deal has stated, electing school board members is just a poor process to guard the education of our children. That has been very, very clear in Dekalb County. We have no choice but to hope that Michael Thurmond can deliver on the many promises he has made, but we need to remember how he was appointed and the people who appointed him. We also need to remember that he did his very best to keep the now-suspended board in place.

    In short, I don’t think that we have the cheating problem that APS had, but I think that we have much more corruption in Dekalb County. SACS did cite in its report that it did find violations of State Law. That in and of itself should prompt the involvement of the GBI and State officials.

  38. John Hope says:

    concernedmom30329, your comments at 9:28 are 100% correct! Does anyone remember the Blue Ribbon Commission put together by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce? The Blue Ribbon Commission reported that it did not find “any district wide or centrally coordinated effort” to manipulate students’ scores. The business community has, I believe, direct culpability in this scandal. The business community desperately wanted to protect Atlanta’s image at the expense of children. It will be interesting to see any accountability on the Chamber in this mess.

    You are also right about the motivations of the Boards with their superintendent hirings. They could not control Brown (who was discovering where bones were buried dating back to the days of Jim Cherry) and found a way to get rid of him. They hired an insider in Lewis and he made an arrangement with SACS for them to get more involved with the school district accreditation process. Tyson saw what was going on and wanted no part of being a permanent superintendent, even though several tried to get her to take the job. They hoped they could control Atkinson but she proved to be more independent than they hoped. She began restructuring the central office but found some of the same bones Brown discovered. Can anyone really say 16 months was enough time to make a significant difference with academic performance?

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