Board Election Runoffs – Charters Are Wedge Issue

Reposted with permission from Stan Jester’s Fact Checker blog >>

[On Thursday, June 26], Leadership DeKalb held a Board of Education candidate runoff forum. As Ty Tagami reported in the AJC, Charter Schools is the issue differentiating the candidates.

Voters will decide in a Runoff Election on July 22nd if the board will advocate for charters or not. The board narrowly voted down the Druid Hills Charter Cluster last year at the end of a contentious debate.

District #3
Michael Irwin – Voted ‘No’ on DHCC
Atticus LeBlanc – Pro Charter

District #4
Karen Carter – Voted ‘No’ on DHCC
Jim McMahan – Voted ‘Yes’ on DHCC

District #5
Thad Mayfield – Voted ‘Yes’ on DHCC
Vickie Turner – Opposes charters

Atticus LeBlanc said it best when he said,

“Since the new board was appointed 16 months ago, there hasn’t been a single policy change affecting the management structure of our schools. We still have high level administrators at the top delegating down to the local schools. We still have just as many amazing parents that are being ignored. We are still losing great teachers at alarming rates.

With the notable exception of Tapestry Charter School (which focuses on autistic students, and whose debate [was] unnecessarily contentious), our board has still not given our children any additional opportunities to improve their education. While KIPP, Drew Charter, and The Museum School continue to outperform the vast majority of schools in the state and serve as models of student achievement, our Board has done nothing to either bring more of these types of schools to DeKalb, or to even attempt to model the best practices from these or other successful schools in our own public education system.

When McNair High School has a 44% graduation rate compared to 93% for KIPP, and the demographic and socioeconomic breakdown of the student body is virtually identical, shouldn’t we as stakeholders expect our Board of Education to at least start to make fundamental policy changes to address these disparities? Or should we continue to “be patient” while more students fall through the cracks?”

DSW NOTE: Please get out and VOTE on JULY 22!

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"
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7 Responses to Board Election Runoffs – Charters Are Wedge Issue

  1. concerned citizen says:

    This is an excellent piece of research and presentation.This is quality of work that we have come to expect from Stan The Smart Man. Can you imagine we have someone of his quality on the side of right/vs wrong? The new board BETTER make him the Chairman, and let the dumb ja go back to scamming the school system on company time. That’s what he learned to do so well, that and softly lie and tap dance with “er, ah, Dr., er, uh Mr, er, ah that’s Dr., right’?
    Also, I hope everyone has gotten a (gorgeous) eyefull of the new Drew Charter High, opening this August. It is just beautiful, and the plans making this school work are a model for all systems! Has anyone in DeKalb Palace and Board taken a look???? I doubt it. The school is in a “terrible” location, agreed, but it will change the entire neighborhood., regardless. Every parent is trying to get his/her student(s) in. Congratulations, Atlanta! Shame, shame DeKalb.

  2. Another comment says:

    The vote would be simple with the dissection here; Leblanc, McMahon, and Mayfield. L , M & M. Pretty easy to remember.

    This is all going to be about getting out the vote. Early voting starts tomarrow hopefully, those three candidates will get out their voters.

  3. howdy1942 says:

    Excellent post! Atticus LeBlanc makes a very timely and accurate observation – this board appointed by the Governor has been the biggest do-nothing, rubber-stamping body I can recall. Its only accomplishment is being more civil toward one another, but it has done absolutely nothing to change the culture of what let us into the mess we are in and one that continues to bring up the rear in the metro Atlanta area’s test scores. From my perspective, the Druid Hills Cluster offered a new approach for those 5,000 kids who live there. It should have been given a chance to either succeed or fail. It offered an opportunity for all of us to learn from its successes and/or its failures. I remain hopeful that a new board structure of seven members and a few new members can breath new life into this approach. Other than some broad platitudes that lacked any specific details or reasons, the present board just slammed down this proposal on the recommendation of a superintendent who felt that he was hired as a superintendent of 100,000 students and not 95,000. Michael Thurmond was appointed by the Board that is most responsible for leading us into this mess and he fought hard to prevent the Governor from removing them. He should step aside. We need new leadership in the position of superintendent and in the administration that is so responsible for leading us into this abyss. Any superintendent needs to have greater support from a larger number of our residents than Mr. Thurmond has.

    It must be Sunday because there was another article on Page 1 of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution’s Metro section headlining the corrpution in Dekalb County. Actually, this is about the third such article just during this past week. Previously, I had thought that the commissioners had paid the County back for personal purchases that individual Commission members made, but the article implies that is not the case. If individual commissioners did make personal purchases using their P-card and have not at least paid the County back, then that is theft and that is criminal. This point needs to be clarified and I intend to ask Chairman Lee May for clarification or I intend to ask him to launch a criminal investigation.

    I am at the point where I think that the State needs to step in and have an independent, outside auditor complete a full audit of both the County Government and the Dekalb County School System. Neither the County or the DCSS should have a choice – the State should just do this. The AJC article quoted residents who live in South Dekalb so I think that it is fair to say that our residents Countywide have lost faith in the County Government and in the Dekalb School System. The County Government and the DCSS has lost the respect, support, and trust of a majority of residents and that cannot be restored by sticking to the same rut we are in. The County Government and the DCSS are broken beyond repair and, before we can even begin to trust again, we need to know the extent of the damage, we need to determine if crimes have been committed, and we need to learn that from independent authorities who have no connection to Dekalb County.

    For now, we need to go to the polls on July 22, 2014, and vote for change. All of us have a stake in bringing change to Dekalb County or we will all suffer the consequences. Many of us can just simply sell at whatever price and move and absorb the loss. The most vulnerable who live here don’t have that choice and thus are exposed to the greatest consequences.

  4. NOTICE >>

    Nonpartisan and Special Runoff Elections will begin Monday, June 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Voter Registration and Elections Office at 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032. There will be no satellite voting locations for this election.

    Early Voting and Absentee Mail Voting will end on Friday, July 18. There will be no Saturday voting and the office will be closed on July 4 in observance of Independence Day. Please contact DeKalb County Voter Registration & Elections for more information at 404-298-4020. Please visit for more information.

    Of course, election day is July 22 and polls will be open!

  5. Supply drive seeks to help 900 DeKalb students
    By Mark Niesse

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    A collection drive in DeKalb County is trying to provide school supplies to 900 low-income students before next school year starts.

    The DeKalb County Department of Family and Children Services is looking for book bags, notebook paper, pencils, pens, calculators, rulers, binders, glue sticks, tissue, crayons and highlighters in the coming weeks, according to DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson.

    Donations can be made by contacting Johnnie Carey at 404-370-5493 or

  6. howdy1942 says:

    Just returned from a community meeting at Rehoboth Baptist Church regarding a request for variance to locate a liquor store close by. This meeting was hosted by Dr. Troy Bush, Senior Pastor at Rehoboth and was attend by just under 600 people. This proposal will be heard by the County Commission on July 22, but the staff has yet to complete its recommendation. Judging from the response at this meeting, that should be a no-brainer.

    In response to a question about what has been impacting our community in such an adverse way, Interim-CEO Lee May cited the school system. His comment received a thunderous ovation. The very strong perception of the 600 present is that the Dekalb County School System is seriously broken and little, if any, improvement has been noted. True, we are now just on “warning” as opposed to “probation”, but that is largely due to a school board majority that was appointed by the Governor and its major accomplishment is to be “nice” to one another. In other posts, I have cited the settlement of the Heery case, but most other lingering problems remain. We still have that teacher lawsuit. We still have an abnormally high teacher turnover rate. We still have a large and growing administration. We still have the lowest test scores in the Metro area. And, perhaps the greatest issue that we have as demonstrated at tonight’s meeting, is a school district that has lost the trust, respect, and confidence of the People. That will never, ever change until this school system administration listens to and heeds the People. And that will only happen with new leadership and administration.

    Immediately following his appointment as Interim-Superintendent and the Governor’s decision to remove 6 members of the school board, Mr. Thurmond came out and met members of the community. I attended a meeting in Dunwoody. There were a number of questions asked such as the one regarding the “600” positions that had been eliminated. I am unaware of any answer. Perhaps I have not been close enough to what has been going on, but Mr. Thurmond seems to have vanished, especially from those meetings north of the Stone Mountain Freeway. Where is he? Whatever happened to the input provided by the community regarding the future structure of the school system? The DCSS appears to have gone silent.

    Like the County, the school system appears to be entangled in its own bureaucracy and has stopped listening. Although I do not live in Druid Hills, it presented a very structured petition to form a charter school cluster that was largely shot down by the political divisions between North Dekalb and South Dekalb. It would have taken only the per-student funding for 5,000 students away from Dekalb County and left the same per-student funding for the remaining 95,000 students. But it also would have taken the responsibilities of administration, funding, and teaching responsibilities away from the County. This would have provided all of us with an opportunity to explore new approaches other than those provided by the DCSS. Just as he strongly fought the removal of the old school board, Mr. Thurmond also strongly fought the petition and a “rubber-stamping” school board majority went along.

    We need change in the Dekalb County School System. That needs to start with a full audit. Since we “lost” and “found” $21 million, I think that it is fair to say that we don’t know what we have. Do we really need that tax increase that fall most heavily on Brookhaven and Dunwoody? How are we spending the money that we already have? Can we not afford to begin to restore those Teacher Retirement Annuity contributions? We cannot begin to answer these questions until we have an audit of the DCSS.

    Let’s start on July 22 – let’s have a 100% turnout and send a message. We want change.

  7. Most excellent comment Howdy. Very insightful. It’s encouraging to hear that many in DeKalb can see clearly and will not be fooled by the media spin.

    The very strong perception of the 600 present is that the Dekalb County School System is seriously broken and little, if any, improvement has been noted.

    We have always said – Atkinson left under very secret conditions. She went AWOL. She was not serving at her post for weeks. The school board at that time was already in trouble. They HAD to hire someone so as not to look like fools without a leader. (This includes the three elected board members currently serving: Johnson (Chair), McMahan (Vice-Chair) and Orson (Druid Hills/Fernbank proponent). So they interviewed several people who declined the position, until they asked Thurmond, who accepted, and a deal was done behind closed doors! The Governor replaced 6 of the 9 board members who did this, but of the 3 that remain, one is currently chair and one is vice-chair. How on earth are we to trust this group? They never shared anything about the crisis behind the curtain. We have Thurmond due to that crisis. He is not a savior, he is a politician and he saw an opportunity to ‘save’ a school district and get lots of good SEO in the process. This is why he hired his former campaign manager as the school district ‘spokesperson’ (without interviewing many, if any other candidates). Watch the news reports – check out how many times Thurmond’s name is mentioned in the ‘good news’ that is reported about DeKalb. The guy is a brilliant politician – but he has not made improvements for the students in DeKalb whatsoever. We guarantee that if placed in the position to choose again, Thurmond would again choose to forgo his local DeKalb public school and send his own daughter to private school. Children are suffering a very poor education in many parts of this county – but Thurmond only picks and chooses to highlight the top tier specialty schools. Because that is what he wants to be served up with Google searches that include his name.

    For a very obvious example, compare our report on DeKalb’s pitiful test scores against the school system’s official press release on the subject. They live on that river in Egypt!

    Our post >> Something does not compute

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