Michael Thurmond talks DeKalb Charter School System

 

Read more on the subject in this article by Ty Tagami at the AJC:

 
DeKalb may vote to pursue charter system
Board expected to approve move in May. Superintendent favors status change, says it will foster innovation.

By Ty Tagami ttagami@ajc.com

The DeKalb County School District may become the next big metro Atlanta system to give more autonomy to principals and parents, if the school board votes as expected next month to pursue charter system status.

Every Georgia district must decide by summer 2015 whether to maintain the status quo or to restructure and push more decisions from the central office to the schoolhouse.

DeKalb would join Fulton County in the charter system category. Gwinnett County, Georgia’s largest district, chose a middle ground, becoming an “Investing in Educational Excellence” district and keeping more central control than a charter system.

Georgia is threatening to punish districts that reject change by actually enforcing some state mandates. Currently, DeKalb and many other systems are balancing their budgets by using waivers to extend class sizes beyond state maximums and to shrink their school calendars under the minimum 180 days.

DeKalb school board chairman Melvin Johnson said he will vote for charter status when the board meets May

5. He believes local control would encourage more parent engagement. “I think it will be a positive for the entire district,” he said.

Superintendent Michael Thurmond is recommending charter status instead of the status quo or the middle ground selected by Gwinnett. Among the benefits enumerated by his administration: keeping the waivers and encouraging innovation. But Thurmond says he would grant autonomy only to schools that demonstrate the capacity to lead, raising questions among some parents.

“We’re hoping to get more details about how that will happen,” said Maggie Anderson, a parent who serves on the governance council at Chamblee Charter High School. “We’re ready to do that.”

Andrew Lewis, executive vice president of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said the charter system model does not offer as much autonomy as a regular startup charter school gets. Still, it’s a shift in that direction, he said. “It’s pushing some decision-making down to the school level.”

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24 Responses to Michael Thurmond talks DeKalb Charter School System

  1. Dekalb supports public and private charter schools? What is he talking about? Why was he against the Druid Hills Charter Cluster? Don’t be fooled by his words…a charter system will not accomplish what is needed the most-dismantling the Palace staff!

  2. Mr. Chips says:

    one thing that we teachers know about this idea: teachers will get screwed by it. Don’t know how just yet but guarantee this will be accomplished at the expense of the teachers.

  3. September says:

    I would prefer to go the route that Gwinnett has chosen. If we are going for charter status, I think we should use the portfolio strategy that Nancy Jester proposed before she left the school board. I don’t think that charter status will encourage parent involvement in schools that don’t have it now.

  4. Word Wall says:

    The $tate category is not really about charter schools, its just more regulatory language — from the $tate to the counties, its only Jargola…..the shift of actual resources and autonomy to the principals and teachers is needed. Not Jargola.

  5. First, let me say that I am currently running for the DeKalb County School Board District 5 and that my comments are based on the things that I seek to accomplish as a board member.

    @DecaturParent the Druid Hills Charter Cluster would have been an example of the System of Charters, and that is a totally different thing from the Charter School System. A Charter System would force the system to look at who and what is really needed in the county. In my opinion, there needs to be a Central Office Shake Up! (COSU) and if i am elected, there will be. In a Charter school system, there should be no more than three (3) levels of administration. The super, the area super, and then the local school unit that is made up of the principal and the school council. This makes all of those individuals that are just holding titles and draining the resources from the classroom obsolete.

    The Druid Hills Charter Cluster would have only been the first, in a long line of clusters that would have quickly followed suit. The DeKalb County School system would have opened the door to its own eventual shutdown. I think that if you look at the DHCC from the perspective of just that cluster itself, then it was a good option for the short term. In the long term, it would have been the “Cluster Shot” heard all around DeKalb. For those wanting to see the end of the DCSS structure, this would have been the start of that process. For those who believe that the DCSS can be turned around, this would not have been the best option at this particular time. I think it was born out of frustration and being

    What you also have to take into account is the cost associated with a System of Charters -vs- Charter School system. That’s another conversation in itself.

    @Dawn Flemming Let me also address the issue of how teachers will be affected. Currently the School Council is made up of parents, teachers, and the principal. If more control was given to the local units, then that is where the teachers would have a voice in the direction of the school. You should know that it is in the Council Bylaws that they are supposed to be involved in the hiring of a new principal. What has happened is that when a position is open, the school council has been left out of the process, and many schools have found themselves with a bad fit at the top position, which causes issues throughout the school. I am making it my business to inform all parents of schools in the county that they need to make sure that this happens. With teachers and parents being able to be in the process of selecting their school leader, we would have fewer issues of teachers being bullied, and mistreated in many of our schools. They may actually be able to do what they love doing, and that’s educating students.

    @September, DeKalb is not ready for that yet because it is still viewing itself as a two race county, and not the urban school system that it has become. Behind Gwinnett, DeKalb is right there, even ahead of the City of Atlanta in diversity, so before we could do like Gwinnett, we need to change our mindset, and make sure we act and plan according or what we now are as a county, and not what we once were.

    With all that being said, I know that we have about 40 days until we get a good glimpse into what we can expect. A return of the old mess we once had, a holding pattern with no new ideas, just the status quo, or a different vision with fresh new ideas for the county.

    R. Alexander Fitzhugh, Candidate
    DeKalb Board of Education – District 5
    http://www.fitzhughfordekalb.com

  6. firstgradeteacher says:

    I don’t know what I think about the charter school status yet. However, this should not be a top priority right now. Changing the status of a school system will not change the foundational issues we have as a system. (high teacher turnover and low student achievement)…

  7. Word Wall says:

    “Among the benefits enumerated by his administration: keeping the waivers”

  8. September says:

    Waivers? Larger classes? Shorter school year?

  9. @ Decaturparent: Per Thurmond: “DeKalb supports public and private charter schools.” What is he talking about, indeed! Thurmond’s ignorance about public education — combined with his arrogance — is wearying.

    ALL charter schools are public schools. ALL charter schools are supposed to receive their share of public funds and they must accept ALL applicants up to the maximum number their facility can accommodate — that includes special needs students, too. The philosophy behind charter schools is that they are developed and driven by a committed group of parents and community members, working collaboratively with teachers for the benefit of students. The basic tenets of charter schools are: give them room to be innovative, hold them accountable for results, and let parents decide if they meet the needs of their children.

    Charter schools focus on accountability for results in return for more flexibility, while providing more options for educating students than ever before. In its report, Successful Charter Schools, the U. S. Department of Education (ED) states, “One of the promises of charter schools is that they can serve as laboratories of innovation … because they have greater autonomy than traditional public schools and they tend to attract pioneering educators, they can try out new approaches to education that, if proven effective can be transplanted into the larger public education system.”

    To be transformative, charter schools must also be transparent.

    The basic facts of charter schools scare the hell out of Thurmond, Tyson and the rest of the Palace People. First, they reject accountability. When was the first, last, or any time that DeKalb County Schools has been accountable to taxpayers, parents, teachers or students? Second, they reject the joint concepts of innovation and transformation and the requirement to be transparent to all. Third, they reject real collaboration with parents, teachers and community. Thurmond and the Palace People know that they will be through once taxpayers see real, innovative, adaptive, effective education in action — either through transparent charter schools and charter clusters or transparent city-based school systems. That’s why Thurmond and his posse stomped all over Druid Hills’ Charter Cluster Proposal.

    The reality behind DeKalb County Schools becoming a charter system is that it enables even less oversight by state authorities. Thurmond, Tyson and the Palace People will be able to shut down all attempts at school-based innovation, accountability and transparency behind an even heavier veil of secrecy.

  10. howdy1942 says:

    I remain convinced that it is the next school board and the next superintendent that should be developing these proposals and making the next decisions. In slightly over one month, the voters will be making the most important decision made in Dekalb County for a long time – electing members of the next school board. They will, in turn, initiate a search for and hire the next school superintendent – all in 2015. Dekalb’s school system has been suffering for at least 10 years and a few more months will not really matter.

    We need change in governance and change in leadership. Cut the size of the administration and get the emphasis on the classroom. Eliminate those teacher furlough days and get teacher compensation competitive with neighboring school systems. Settle that teacher lawsuit and sharply reduce legal expenses. Begin having dialog with the community and restore the trust that has been destroyed. Insure that every employee of the DCSS has a job description, that measurable standards have been defined for each position, and that a performance review process is in place for each position. The same school board and the same superintendent cannot make the needed changes – we need new governance and new leadership in which we can place our faith and trust to make the necessary changes. Let us begin!

  11. @ DSW – We are seeing the charter system the same. I believe that once the points that you made are actually articulated to the parents. teachers, and the communities throughout DeKalb, then those who currently work under that veil of misinformation will have no place to con and deceive.

    DSW – Let me be perfectly clear when I say that having the correct policies in place will ensure that what you have described is what the charter school system would look like. Parents are fed up with overpaid and under qualified professional jargon pushers, who are eating up valuable resources.

    I would like to go MUCH deeper, but I have to save specifics for the debates and forums. I have already caught glimpses of my platform now starting to come from others running against me. I would be glad to talk personally with anyone who wants to understand my position on this and any other issue that you may want to discuss.

    @Howdy-I agree that the next school board should develop the proposals and make the decisions.
    If you read my post, I am for a COSU. We have become the Board of Administration instead of Education. The furlough days are should have never taken place at all. When they were looking for places to cut the budget, teachers should have been the very last option, but it seems like they were the first. Not on my watch. Howdy, I could name 5 positions right now in DeKalb County Government that is simply a holding space for friends of friends, it’s right there in plain sight. We do need new governance and new leadership that will EARN your faith and trust, and be willing to make the necessary changes.

    I am accustomed to getting up early to handle issues (I guess that is my military background), and so for me, being up at 3am, going through budget documents and meeting minutes, show me just how much former boards let slip through the cracks, and it is amazing! It will not happen on my watch.

    R. Alexander Fitzhugh – Candidate
    DeKalb Board of Education District 5
    www,fitzhughfordekalb.com
    You can get my contact info from my webpage. I am open to discuss my position on the issues that mean the most to you.

  12. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    If I understand the timing correctly, the state law for local systems to chose their flexibility option, if any, was passed in 2008. The deadline for the state allowing waivers if no flexibility option is selected is June 30, 2015. The county has waited until the end of the process to make its decision, giving itself just enough time to have its system in place by the deadline next year.

    So while many other issues are more important that this, it is required by law if the county wants waivers for anything.

  13. Please excuse the typos in my previous post. It was 3am, and I was on my laptop in the dark with a much smaller screen. I hope that you were able to get a clear understanding of my position on the charter schools option.
    R. Alexander Fitzhugh

  14. Word Wall says:

    Jargola…. Jargon and Payola.

  15. Great new terms here on DSW!

    COSU … Central Office Shake Up
    and
    Jargola … Jargon and Payola

  16. Gregory Walker says:

    Alexander – thanks for taking the time to talk through some of the issues (and we all get the need to save the ‘best of the best’ for debates). I do want to just register my support for an important distinction you made in your first post that I believe gets lost in the conversations around the charter schools:

    There is a world of difference, for me as a parent, between a ‘charter school’ and a ‘charter cluster’. Whether either or both scare the Board or Administration is irrelevant (to me). I think you hit the nail on the head regarding the Druid Hills cluster proposal – the long term ramifications of what that would mean were not thought through enough. It simply wasn’t the right proposal at the right time. I would prefer we step back from that path and look at the systemic, fundamental reforms across the system, then come back and look at whether charter clusters make the most sense for all of the county, not just one area.

  17. DeKalb County school system considers charter status for the district

    DECATUR, Georgia — DeKalb County could soon become the latest metro Atlanta school system to pursue charter school status.

    All Georgia school districts must decide by summer 2015 whether to maintain their current structure or pursue a charter school status, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (http://bit.ly/1gH0wI0 ).

    The charter school status is expected to move more decision-making from the central office to school buildings.

    If DeKalb County opts for charter school status, it would join Fulton County in that category.

    Gwinnett County, Georgia’s largest school district, chose a middle ground, becoming an “Investing in Educational Excellence” district and keeping more central control than a charter system.

    DeKalb County Superintendent Michael Thurmond is recommending charter status instead of the status quo or the middle ground selected by Gwinnett.

    Stateside, the charter system model does not offer as much autonomy as a regular startup charter school gets, said Andrew Lewis, executive vice president of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Still, it’s a shift in that direction, he said.

    “It’s pushing some decision-making down to the school level,” he said.

    In DeKalb County, Superintendent Michael Thurmond is recommending charter status. But Thurmond says he would grant autonomy only to schools that demonstrate the capacity to lead, raising questions among some parents.

    “We’re hoping to get more details about how that will happen,” said Maggie Anderson, a parent who serves on the governance council at Chamblee Charter High School. “We’re ready to do that.”

    The DeKalb County system is expected to take up the issue when it meets May 5.

  18. Of Possible Interest to All DeKalb County Schools Conversion Charters and Start-Up Charters —
    Per Section 5 (g) of Article 31 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.):
    An existing conversion or start-up charter school within a local school system which is petitioning to become a charter system shall have the option of continuing under its own existing charter, not subject to the terms of the system charter, or of terminating its existing charter, upon agreement by the local board and state board, and becoming subject to the system charter as a charter system school.”

  19. dekalbmom says:

    Folks, Thurmond’s talk of a “Charter System” is simply an effort to mollify the average parent or voter into thinking something new or innovative is going to happen. If DeKalb county school system becomes a charter “system” it will be the status quo and the same top-down control you have now. My child went to Chamblee Charter HS, a conversion charter school, and I served on the Governance Council for several years. It was a very frustrating experience. I read the charter and repeated asked what “flexibility” we were receiving based on the waivers that were written into the Charter. 3 years later the ONLY differences I could see were that that school was not on a block system and the teachers were able to give zeros and not follow every grading mandate that the main office required. Other than that, the principal imposed every ridiculous initiative pushed down by the main office. The school had no control over its budget, hiring or firing of staff, discipline, etc. The Charter was meaningless.

    This is nothing but “spin” by the great spin master, Thurmond. Don’t fall for it. At every meeting insist that the administration specify exactly what will be different in a Charter System than the way the school system and individual schools are operated today.

    The Druid Hills Charter application was very different. The school administration would have had control over how the funds were allocated within the cluster. We all know how that ended!

  20. Ella Smith says:

    Howdy I agree totally.

    We need change in governance and change in leadership. Cut the size of the administration and get the emphasis on the classroom. Eliminate those teacher furlough days and get teacher compensation competitive with neighboring school systems. Settle that teacher lawsuit and sharply reduce legal expenses. Begin having dialog with the community and restore the trust that has been destroyed. Insure that every employee of the DCSS has a job description, that measurable standards have been defined for each position, and that a performance review process is in place for each position. The same school board and the same superintendent cannot make the needed changes – we need new governance and new leadership in which we can place our faith and trust to make the necessary changes. Let us begin!

    Charter schools appear to be developed and driven by a committed group of parents and community members, working collaboratively with teachers for the benefit of students. Charter schools are definitely given room to be innovative, are accountable for results, and allows parents to decide if they meet the needs of their children. However, I teach in a Charter System, and in a Charter School which encourages more parent involvement. I do see more parent involvement from a few parents but I do think more reform is needed for DeKalb County School for success than just changing to a charter system. Our school system needs major reform to put the classroom first and allow allocation of funds to the classroom. Our system needs to improve teachers’ salaries in line with other metro areas to recruit highly skilled teachers. Our school system needs restructuring of central office staff. Our school system needs to improve the discipline in the schools and classroom. I am not for sure that just turning our school system into a charter system will make the changes needed for improved student performance.

  21. Good morning, Ella — When you are directly quoting someone in a post or comment to DSW please use quotation marks around the quote or put the quote in italics. Also please reference the name of the person and/or article you are quoting. Thanks!

    [ie: You quoted Howdy’s great comment, “We need change in governance and change in leadership. Cut the size of the administration and get the emphasis on the classroom. Eliminate those teacher furlough days and get teacher compensation competitive with neighboring school systems. Settle that teacher lawsuit and sharply reduce legal expenses. Begin having dialog with the community and restore the trust that has been destroyed. Insure that every employee of the DCSS has a job description, that measurable standards have been defined for each position, and that a performance review process is in place for each position. The same school board and the same superintendent cannot make the needed changes – we need new governance and new leadership in which we can place our faith and trust to make the necessary changes. Let us begin!”]

  22. Announcement:

    Come meet candidates for school board and house and senate seats at The Grove on LaVista Rd. from 5:30 to 7:30 on Thursday April 17.

    Candidates for state seats are Jim Duffie and Greg Williams.

    Candidates for School board are Don McChesney and John Oselette.

  23. Kim says:

    dekalbmom pretty much summed up the issue – Mr. Thurmond has said follow the money since he took office. He is right. Until the budgetary decisions are out of the “chain of command” leading to Mountain Industrial, little of consequence will change.

  24. As far as charters go, it is difficult to run one as strictly a state-approved independent charter. DeKalb schools does not support these schools and they only collect state and federal funding (not local). Further, they are not entitled to use shuttered DCSS buildings. This is why the Ivy Prep Charter School in Kirkwood in DeKalb is appealing to the board of commissioners to approve a low-interest bond so that they can buy the building they currently lease ($$$).

    Read more here >> http://www.ivyprepacademy.info/files/IPA_BondFAQ.pdf

    The item below goes before the county commission on Tuesday. If you want to support them, please contact your local commissioner –

    I4.    The Development Authority of DeKalb County Charter School Revenue Bonds (Ivy Preparatory Academy, Incorporated Project)

    (Accepted to the Regular BOC Meeting Agenda; Assigned to the Planning & Economic Development Committee; Deferred from the 3/25/14 Regular BOC Meeting; Discussed during the 3/25/14 Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting – recommend 1-month deferral; Deferred from the 4/8/14 Regular BOC Meeting)

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