Post #1 is called, “What We Have Here Is a Failure To Communicate”
Let me start by saying that Title 20 of the Georgia Code was passed by the legislature in 2009. Title 20 gives school districts the option of contracting with the GA Department of Education (GA DOE) to operate with one of six models; Status Quo, IE2, Strategic School System, Charter System, System of Charter Schools, or System of Charter Clusters. (This post is not about those options.)
The DeKalb County School District is rapidly approaching the conversion deadline, June 30, 2015. In fact, several of the options are no longer available because the process for converting to them can’t be completed before then.
The first meeting of the Flexibility Advisory Committee was in early December, 2013. On January 9, a memo was posted on the DCSD web site announcing “The DeKalb County School District has an opportunity to completely change how the district operates, how its schools are governed, and what accountability measures are appropriate.” There is a series of five Community Engagement Meetings in this month. “Anyone interested in learning more about these flexibility options and providing input into the decision-making process are encouraged to attend these sessions.” Superintendent Thurmond is scheduled to make a recommendation to the Board of Education on March 3.
I have attended two of the Community Engagement Meetings and the frustration with the “same old” style of meeting has raised my blood pressure. The only handout available at the meetings has been the meeting agenda, no notes or copies of the presentation. Before Thursday, Jan. 23, there was no information explaining what School System Flexibility is or what options are available. It was only after parents & teachers at Towers & Lithonia High Schools asked for it was anything posted and at first it was just a timeline.
Only after Twitter users started linking PowerPoint presentations from other districts did DCSD feel the need to post the PowerPoint presentation used for the Community Engagement Meetings. That presentation provides no details regarding the implementation of the options presented. I described the meeting at Lakeside High to a friend as “a weak presentation followed by 2 hours of people asking for details.”
One of my comments at the Lakeside High meeting was, “We can not give you intelligent feedback or input without information about the options.”
The facilitator said the district isn’t looking for feedback specific to the options, these meetings are to provide feedback on guiding principles. There are three questions which the Flexibility Advisory Committee want answered.
What priorities are considered to be crucial to continuing to improve the district and its schools?
How can the governance of the district and its schools improve?
What is currently working in the district and at local schools for highlighting and replication district-wide?
Disregard the recently approved strategic plan which supposedly used community feedback to define those very things and allow me to ask how can the administration not know those things? Stakeholders have been answering those questions nonstop for years.
The only way for those to be legitimate questions is if DCSD employees & BOE members have been ignoring all the public feedback they have gotten before now.
That leads me to question if there is any chance of any future feedback being considered.
Then, blog post #2 continues with, “Never Stop Communicating“. In part:
There are three questions asked during the Community Engagement Meetings occurring right now. I will share my answers with you.
1. What priorities are considered to be crucial to continuing to improve the district and its schools?
My top two priorities are reducing class size and resolving the TSA lawsuit/resume contributions to the teachers’ retirement fund.
2. How can the governance of the district and its schools improve?
This is the hardest one. The easy answer is, remove all the friends and family, but that isn’t practical. So I will say, change the internal financial system to comply with GAAP and state DOE guidelines. Also, create some sort of cross-reference guide between different versions of the budget. By this I mean, something that explains how the Budget Detail relates to the Budget Summary and how those relate to the Consolidated Budget which the BOE approves.
3. What is currently working in the district and at local schools for highlighting and replication district-wide?
Look at the theme and magnet schools. They have the highest test scores and graduation rates. They also are the least overcrowded. Stop overcrowding the school buildings and classrooms. I have looked at the data long enough to know that after parent engagement, the biggest influence on measurable achievement is the density of students in a school or classroom. We do not need to replicate the themes or use expensive programs. We need to replicate schools where the teachers can teach.
Those are my answers.
Please email yours to Trenton Arnold who will pass them along to the Flexibility Advisory Committee. Trenton_J_Arnold@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us
There are only TWO more of these meetings scheduled. Please plan to attend one of them and try to make your voice heard.
Stephenson High School
January 28 @ 6:30 PM
Dunwoody High School
January 29 @ 6:30 PM
*This blog post does not represent the positions or opinions of anyone other than Kirk Lunde.
And From The Patch: This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you’d like to post a blog, go here to get started.