Another new report from Stan Jester: The update on the Tapestry Charter petition

Stan Jester is the blogging man of the week!

His newest post on the DeKalb School Board’s meeting regarding the Tapestry Charter School petition is a must read.

Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond captured the Tapestry discussion saying about charters in general, “We don’t have the understanding or capability to offer you an objective analysis.”


The DeKalb Board meeting appeared to recreate the debate of last year’s charter amendment. Some board members used this time to learn more about charters and the laws that govern them. The interim superintendent suggested the board’s negative reactions were a function of not having a strategic plan – “Now that we are into the strategic planning process, we have to look at how we evaluate and approve charters going forward.” The district hired the GSBA for $300,000 to help develop a strategic plan. The funny thing is, they already did that last year. You can read Nancy Jester’s blog “Strategic Churn” and learn all about that. Mr. Thurmond and the Board may want to review the current strategic plan (just penned by the GSBA in 2012) and stakeholder engagement sessions. The first item noted as an area of “greatest agreement” in the summary of the community engagement sessions states, “Alternative learning environments – DeKalb’s community likes having options for where to send children to school….”. So, DeKalb voted overwhelmingly to approve the Charter Amendment and has specifically told the district they want more options. OK.

Truly, this is a DO NOT MISS post. It is informative, frustrating, sad and insightful as to just how lost our ‘new’ school board and their interim superintendent really are when it comes to addressing the meat and potatoes of education.

For example:


I was struck by this question asked by Dr. Morley, “If we are getting all this money for these students, why can’t we meet those needs?” That’s a terrific question and it took a charter petition for this question to be raised. Had the Tapestry petition not been presented, would anyone have asked about the effectiveness of our services and meeting students’ needs? I advise to Dr. Morley to examine the various academic metrics to see that DeKalb has done a very poor job of meeting students needs. This charter school petition just inspired self-examination that may lead to improvements for students. Just think what potential innovations the actual school will generate.

Implicit in Dr. Morley’s question was the view that children produce a revenue stream. The usual questions were asked that imply that somehow approving a charter will hurt someone else. They fail to understand the concept of the balance sheet. While funding for the students in a charter would flow to that charter’s account, so do the liabilities for teaching that child. Yes, a district loses revenue but it also loses costs. In some cases the costs are greater than what the district is reimbursed, so it’s possible to be a net gain for the district. And the district should be happy to have a laboratory for innovation that could develop a way to deliver high quality services at lower costs. So why do district leaders not seem happy about this? Could it be because they are confused about what the mission of a school system is?

Read the rest here >> 09/09/2013 – Tapestry Charter – DeKalb Schools Board Meeting

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21 Responses to Another new report from Stan Jester: The update on the Tapestry Charter petition

  1. Mary Hoyt says:

    Thanks for the post. I hadn’t heard of Tapestry before. It sounds amazing. Praying it goes forward, and i will let the school board members know I’m a fan as well. Yes, disappointing that the 2012 strategic plan and results from prior community engagement sessions are not being used well.

  2. Fred in DeKalb says:

    I read the mission for Tapestry on their webpage and must admit their objectives are quite noble. It seems to be geared towards students with special needs, especially those diagnosed with autism. If I had to guess, the strategy could be to position itself that way with the hopes that families with autistic children will apply. If the application process results in a lottery and some of the target students are not chosen, one has to wonder how that situation would be handled.

    Though a building has not been secured, there are several vacant facilities in DeKalb such as the old Heritage building. Would the startup costs in securing a facility compromise the initial staffing and subsequent instructional delivery plans? One would also assume that transportation would be the responsibility of the parent which effectively limits the population that can be served. This is an observation and not meant to suggest a reason for denying the petition.

    It would be interesting to see this petition approved for three years with clear contingencies for extending this to five. We can all agree we can’t continue doing things as we have however safeguards must be put in place to ensure the alternatives don’t compromise student achievement for those in and out of the charter. Everyone likes the idea of smaller class sizes but if successful, is this model one that can be replicated throughout the district? Achieving smaller class sizes is harder than most realize, as evidenced by the article that appeared in the paper on Monday. If DeKalb had the additional $444 million dollars that is was due under the QBE funding formula over the past decade, teachers could have gotten raises and class sizes could have been maintained or possibly reduced.

  3. concernedmom30329 says:

    The staff was ill prepared on this one. Perhaps they didn’t expect the BoE to question them on this particular item. Add to that how little many of the Board Members understood about charters and the train wreck happened. Without a doubt it will be approved tonight.

    A point of frustration — at a minimum Orson (and I suspect Johnson) could have answered many of the procedural questions that other board members had. (ie how the lottery worked). Why didn’t they?

  4. Stan Jester says:

    Called Meeting 9/25/2013 – 4:00 PM
    * Executive Session (Cabinet Room)
    * Approval of Tapestry Public Charter School, Inc.
    * MLA Board Governance Presentation

  5. @Fred: The Heritage building is already in use – just this year it began hosting the Globe Academy (another new charter). However, as certainly our Board Chair, Melvin Johnson should know, charters can pay rent to churches and other facilities if they choose to locate there. (Johnson himself is one of the original promoters of the Leadership Prep Charter housed at his church, New Birth. Johnson himself signed the lease agreement with the church for $10,000 a month. Johnson ABSOLUTELY knows how charters work — probably much more detailed than anyone else on the board or the staff – except of course, Ron Ramsey, who along with his wife runs several schools that enjoy quite a lot of federal and state funding and for which they are over $100,000 in arrears in property taxes.) Don’t let Johnson or Ramsey play dumb for one minute!

  6. ps Fred: You should research charters a bit. You seem to be going on a lot of ‘assumptions’ — and you know what happens when you assume.

    FWIW, I’ll start you off: Start reading about start up charters at the Georgia Charter School Association. Lots to learn here.

    Regarding your specific comments: No, charters do not provide transportation generally. Yes, they run off their own budgets — mostly state and federal funding. They actually save local taxpayers dollars. The board can choose to fund charters beyond their FTE state credits and federal credits (given to DCSS and then redistributed to the charters). They have done this for Leadership Prep and Destiny Academy in the past. The board has elected to provide lunch programs for these schools as well as misc additional requested funding. We also have several new start up charters – the Museum School in Avondale, the Globe Academy near Lakeside (in the old Heritage ES) and then the long-running International Community School – finally approved to be housed at the former Medlock Elementary school, DeKalb Academy of Technology & the Environment, DeKalb PATH Academy, Ivy Prep (shared with Gwinnett), and DeKalb Prep.

    Conversion charters are very different – and we have several of those as well. Anyone with better knowledge of this topic care to write an informative post on the subject for us to share with our readers? Send us an email if you would be so kind! dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com

  7. concernedmom30329 says:

    Many charters would like to provide transportation. They can’t because of facility costs.

    Tapestry has already raised 100 thousand dollars to help offset the start up costs. They will manage just fine, I think.

    The reality is that Tapestry will struggle to put together a true inclusion program. Most parents of neurotypical children will be looking for something different. However, these children are so poorly served by DeKalb that even if the inclusion element falls to the side, these students will be much better off than they are in a DCSS schools, especially for middle school.

  8. Stan Jester says:

    Elementary and Pre-K Students with Special Needs
    Coralwood is a DeKalb County public school that serves students in preschool through kindergarten. This school serves typically developing students and students with special needs. Having adopted co-teaching and inclusion model of instruction, Hawthorne Elementary School receives Coralwood students who wish to transfer to Hawthorne once they age out of the Coralwood program rather than return to their home school.

    Tapestry
    After Coralwood and Hawthorne, these children do not have a special school to attend … until now. Tapestry Public Charter School will be an inclusion school designed for students in grades 6-12 and will be particularly engaging for students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), who are often underserved in the traditional middle and high school environments.

    Student/Teacher ratio
    Given the Q.B.E weight table, the student/teacher ratio will rely heavily on the number of special education students they serve. I’m not sure if they plan on making the classes larger the more neurotypical children they receive.

  9. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    @Fred
    I’m thinking if DeKalb had an additional $444 million, we would just get more bridge initiatives and parent centers, etc…

    Dekalb has the highest millage rate in the state. We should have the best paid teachers and the lowest student/teacher ratio in the state. I submit that we would get all those things you mentioned if we didn’t have a Superintendent hand picked by South Dekalb.

  10. Fred in DeKalb says:

    @DSW, thanks for the correction regarding Heritage. It is good to hear that that facility is in use. Anyone know of the condition of the old Briarcliff/DSA facility? I only ask about it given its proximity to some of the Tapestry Board members. Otherwise as suggested, they may be able to rent space from a church, like ICS and the Museum school did.

    @DeKalb Inside Out, though DeKalb has the highest millage rate, it doesn’t mean as much when the property values are 30-40% lower than they were several years ago. Each mill does not generate as much revenue as it once did. Regretfully that point seems to get lost with many people. Please read the referenced article if you get a chance. It shares how other school districts have dealt with significant reductions from property and state taxes to support schools.

  11. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Since we are speaking about Tapestry and its noble mission to serve autistic children along with the discussions about revenue, it should be noted that four decades ago, special education consumed less than 4% of all K-12 spending. It now consumes 21%. In keeping with supporting statements like this, more information can be found on the following link,

    http://www.epi.org/publication/fact-challenged_policy/

  12. concernedmom30329 says:

    Tapestry approved unanimously with thanks from several board members to the school’s founding board for being patient and answering their questions.

  13. Egads! And a little over four decades ago we had segregated schools in DeKalb – with the black children getting used old textbooks left on the back stoop of “their” school over the summer!

    It’s horrible to think of the way special education students used to be treated and educated. Remember, we had separate facilities for many of them! That was a ‘whole nother’ budget from tax dollars – and it wasn’t education.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students identified as receiving special education has climbed from about 3,700,000 in 1976 to 6,500,000 in 2009. You will notice that there were several categories not tracked 40 years ago so it’s probably tough to really compare.

    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=64

  14. Interesting chart from Nancy Jester’s blog — http://nancyjester.com/fy2012qbeweightandvalue.aspx

    Program — FY2012 Weight — FY2012 Value
    Kindergarten — 1.6609 — $ 4,550
    Kindergarten Early Intervention — 2.053 — $ 5,625
    Grades 1-3 — 1.2865 — $ 3,525
    Grades 1-3 Early Intervention — 1.8054 — $ 4,946
    Grades 4-5 — 1.0327 — $ 2,829
    Grades 4-5 Early Intervention — 1.7998 — $ 4,931
    Grades 6-8 — 1.0165 — $ 2,785
    Middle School Programs — 1.1220 — $ 3,074
    Grades 9-12 — 1.0000 — $ 2,740
    Vocational Labs — 1.1838 — $ 3,243
    Special Ed. – Category I — 2.3973 — $ 6,568
    Special Ed. – Category II — 2.8209 — $ 7,728
    Special Ed. – Category III — 3.5939 — $ 9,846
    Special Ed. – Category IV — 5.8299 — $ 15,973
    Special Ed. – Category V — 2.4606 — $ 6,741
    Gifted — 1.6694 — $ 4,574
    Remedial Education — 1.3141 — $ 3,600
    Alternative Education — 1.6046 — $ 4,396
    ESOL Program — 2.5356 — $ 6,947

  15. Just another day in Paradise says:

    The QBE funding weights from GaDOE for FY2014 can be found below. It’s interesting to see how much they’ve dropped in two years.

    Program FY 2014 Weight FY 2014 Value

    Kindergarten 1.6508 $4,030
    Kindergarten Early Intervention 2.0348 $4,967
    Grades 1 – 3 1.2849 $3,136
    Grades 1 – 3 Early Intervention 1.7931 $4,377
    Grades 4 – 5 1.0355 $2,528
    Grades 4 – 5 Early Intervention 1.7867 $4,361
    Middle Grades (6-8) Program 1.0277 $2,509
    Middle School (6-8) Program 1.1310 $2,761
    Grades 9 – 12 1.0000 $2,441
    Vocational Labs 1.1916 $2,909
    Special Ed. – Category I 2.3798 $5,809
    Special Ed. – Category II 2.7883 $6,806
    Special Ed. – Category III 3.5493 $8,664
    Special Ed. – Category IV 5.7509 $14,038
    Special Ed. – Category V 2.4511 $5,983
    Gifted 1.6589 $4,049
    Remedial 1.3087 $3,195
    Alternative Education 1.4711 $3,591
    ESOL Program 2.5049 $6,114

  16. Just another day in Paradise says:

    Sorry the formatting didn’t work ;(

  17. Thanks so much Paradise – those are fascinating numbers. We’ve discussed many times that the funding responsibilities have flipped. The state used to fund 60% with local taxes funding 40% – now those numbers have flipped – with local taxes having to pay for a majority of education costs.

    An aside: I just read a snippet stating that concept of public schools was born of the need to educate freed slaves. Interesting… true?

  18. Read the AP US History – Study Notes
    http://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/outlines/chapter-16-the-south-and-the-slavery-controversy-1793-1860/

    The Plant “Aristocracy”

    Before the Civil War, the South was in some respects not so much a democracy as an oligarchy—or government by the few—heavily influenced by a planter aristocracy

    a. In 1850 only 1,733 families owned more than 100 slaves each, and this select group provided the cream of the political and social leadership of the section and nation

    b. In the tall-columned and white painted plantation mansion, dwelt the “cottonocracy”

    The planter aristocrats enjoyed a lion’s share of southern wealth

    a. They could educate their children in the finest schools, often in the North or aboard

    b. Their money provided the leisure for study, reflection, and statecraft, as was notably true of men like John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis

    c. They felt a keen sense of obligation to serve the public; it was no accident that Virginia and the other southern states produced a higher proportion of front-rank statesmen before 1860 than the “dollar-grubbing” North

    But even in its best light, dominance by a favored aristocracy was basically undemocratic

    a. The gap between rich and poor widened and hampered tax-supported public education, because rich planters could send their children to private institutions

    b. A favorite author of elite southerners was Sir Walter Scott, whose manors and castles, helped them idealize a feudal society, though their economic actives were capitalistic

    c. Southern aristocrats, who sometime staged jousting tournaments, strove to perpetuate a type of medievalism that he died out in Europe; Mark Twain accused the British novelist of arousing the southerners to fight for a decaying social structure (“sham”)

  19. Stan Jester says:

    Having read DeKalbSchoolWatch and seen the error of their ways, the DeKalb County School Board approves the Tapestry Public Charter School and hails them as a paragon of all charters.

    You can view the video clip and transcript here.

  20. Midvale Dad says:

    Fred,

    The Tapestry board has found a location which isn’t a DCSD building. I don’t know what the rent agreement looks like.

    The Tapestry class model and their planned programs are not possible without supplemental outside funding. The board understands this and has spent a lot of time doing “development.” You can think of the Tapestry Charter School as a public-private partnership.

    Personally, I wish they would be more ambitious and offer more classes per grade. The need is huge.

  21. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Fred
    “though DeKalb has the highest millage rate, it doesn’t mean as much when the property values are 30-40% lower than they were several years ago. Each mill does not generate as much revenue as it once did.”

    Rockdale also has as high a millage rate as DeKalb and much lower property values (remember that 100% of Rockdale Schools are Title 1) while DeKalb has some of the crown jewels of property values in the Dunwoody, Northlake and Emory areas including Perimeter Mall. Rockdale has 100% of their schools making excellent while DeKalb obviously does not. Again, it is a matter of where you put your money. Rockdale puts it in the classroom. Have you ever visited the Rockdale schools? Even the lowest income schools are clean and safe, have well compensated teachers with high morale and abundant technology. Parents are very pleased with their services. Please go and physically walk through the Rockdale schools and see what happens when you put your money into the classroom.

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