Converting McNair High School to a Start-Up Charter

[From Stan Jester’s Fact Checker blog]

McNairNewThis evening at 5pm, the DeKalb Schools board will vote to approve converting Ronald McNair High School into a Start-Up Charter School over the next 6 years. As a start-up charter, DeKalb College & Career Academy Charter School will enjoy autonomy not currently granted to conversion charters. That autonomy includes personnel decisions, financial decisions, curriculum and instruction, resource allocation, establishing and monitoring the achievement of school improvement goals, and school operations.

Superintendent Michael Thurmond mentioned at the 04/23/2013 Tucker Parent Council that he has been working with the President of Georgia Piedmont Technical College, Jabari Simama, to setup a career academy in DeKalb County. The Technical College System of Georgia has provided a $3 million dollar grant for construction costs. Partners with this charter school include Georgia Piedmont Technical College and DeKalb businesses such as Georgia Power, DeKalb Fire and Rescue, Epps Aviation, Siemens and Oglethorpe Power.

Budget (Page 776)
The DeKalb College & Career Academy Charter School charter petition is 861 pages. In FY2006 the charter school is anticipated to have 300 students and will grow to 1500 students by FY2020. Ronald McNair High School capacity is currently 1524. The Georgia Certified Employees Salary Schedule (page 34) will serve as a guide for teacher compensation. Teachers will presumably be employees of Georgia Piedmont Technical College and can be paid more with waivers granted by the board. The starting salary of the principal will be $108K and will grow to $122K by FY2020.

Transportation (Page 36)
Despite $0 being allocated in the budget for transportation, the DeKalb College and Career Academy will provide transportation for students from central bus stops. The school will contract with DeKalb County School District for special needs students.

Performance Based Goals (Page 21)
80% of the students will meet or exceed state standards by year 1 on all Georgia Milestone assessments. Note: Georgia Milestone assessments are taking the place of CRCT and EOCT. The percentage of students who meet/exceed standards on the Georgia Milestone assessments will increase by 5% each year thus reaching 100% pass rate in 5 years.

Board Members
DeKalb College and Career Academy shall be governed by the following Governing Board of Directors:

Mr. Michael Thurmond DeKalb County School District
Dr. Jabari Simama Georgia Piedmont Technical College
Mr. Cornell McBride McBride Research Lab
Mr. Corbett Davis DeKalb Fire and Rescue
Ms. Sadie Dennard Georgia Power
Mr. Ray Cheek Snapping Shoals
Ms. Janet Spaulding VideoLarm
Ms. Deidre Pierce Georgia PTA
Adrian Hylton Miller Grove High School

Read about the charter here >> DeKalb College & Career Academy Charter School Petition (Searchable PDF)

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29 Responses to Converting McNair High School to a Start-Up Charter

  1. We wish them success. The more independent, autonomous charters, the better!

  2. concerned citizen says:

    Now McNair Middle must be torn down.

  3. Meeting is streaming right now >>

    Anti-climatic – they just adjourned to executive session for a ‘personnel’ matter. They will return at 6:00 pm.

  4. Strange. Thurmond said that if the grant doesn’t come through, the administration would recommend funding the school (they already have earmarked $1 million). But, can he then, as superintendent, recommend spending money on the school at which he sits on the board?

  5. Dr. Morley just rambled on and I didn’t understand her point at all.

    Thad clarified: The grant doesn’t have anything to do with the school getting approved.

    Thurmond: After a decade of inertia, we are struggling to serve a group of students we have failed badly. Part of our failure in graduation rates is in our inability to offer them something they are interested in.

    (Right on Thurmond – very good point!)

  6. Passes. 7-0.
    (Coleman and Carter are absent)

  7. Just a note: We at DSW are very, very, very supportive of this initiative.

    We wish them the very best and will support them in any way.

  8. Hmmmmm says:

    How does this get supported and even encouraged by district leaders but the Druid Hills Charter gets shot down?

  9. I had the same thought, Hmmmmmm!

  10. @Hmmmmm. These are two very different charters. Druid Hills – it was argued – wasn’t really offering anything unique. Certainly, we can all agree that the Druid Hills cluster would most likely do a better job than current leadership, but they were basically proposing the same type of delivery and programs – just with better leadership. This school is very different. We don’t have a career academy. We have a school of technology in south DeKalb and one housed within Cross Keys – but both have floundered for decades. This program partners with the Georgia Piedmont Technical College and can offer true pathways to viable careers. We really applaud the idea and sincerely hope that they implement it in a very different way. So many kids do not learn by sitting at a desk taking notes or by doing an abundance of ‘group’ projects or by memorizing facts in order to pass the next test. This program really could be unique. I hope they get some strong experienced advice from successful leaders in similar programs around the country. The people on this board – while well-intentioned – have little experience in this kind of educational program. They really need to hitch their wagon to a serious mentor. We hope it all goes well.

  11. We do have a few logistical questions – and admittedly we haven’t read all 900 or so pages of the document. First, how will they go about making a current school into a start-up charter? Will they first have to close McNair completely? The charter says they will start out with only 300 students. McNair currently has over 1500 students. Where will they attend school once the charter opens? Surely it is in the proposal – has anyone read it carefully enough to know the answers? We do think it’s very possible to get 80% passing the first year — solely due to the fact that these students will have chosen to attend this program. We are also glad to see that it appears to be open to anyone – no ‘application’ or ‘testing’ — or parental involvement. A strong supply of mentors for these kids would be a big plus too. Not sure if that’s in the plan.

  12. Stan Jester says:

    I’m told this will actually be a Conversion Charter.

    McNair High School – Enrollment/Capacity – FY14
    Enrollment: 856
    Capacity: 1,524

    Charter schools must adhere to the same open admission and enrollment standards as traditional public schools. With the exception of certain allowable admissions preferences, charter schools may not select their students, nor deny admission to any applicant provided that there is space for that student within the school’s capacity.

  13. anothercomment says:

    The big difference is one charter is by Friends and Family and one is by the Educated folks of DeKalb who care for the Education of all students.

    Let us not forget the Grand Jury wanted Jabari indicted along with Mr. CEO I. This is about corruption and how to enrich the Friends and Family. The Druid Hills Charter was going to take the dollars with the students away from Friends and Family at the Central Office.

  14. dsw2contributor says:

    DSW & Stan – you guys are all being sucked by the word “Charter”. This charter deal is going to screw over thousands of Dekalb students.

    Georgia Piedmont Technical College is a really BAD school — the MAJORITY of its students do NOT graduate with degrees. GPTC’s student retention rate is low (only 54%) and its graduation rate is only 31%, according to this page:

    Another source says that only 32% of its students graduate after 150% of normal time (
    I believe that is saying that less than 1/3rd of its students enrolled in 2-year Associates Degrees actually finish that degree after three years.

    We know that 2/3rds of GPTC students don’t finish. We also know that many (I don’t know the exact percentage) of GPTC students do not even enroll in Associate Degree programs. Check out the list of “Certificates” offered by GPTC:

    The typical GPTC student is going to have to take out loans to pay for it. The worst outcome a student can have today is to go into debt to attend college and not finish their diploma. Google “Debt, no degree” and you’ll find articles like this one:

    For years now, Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary has been saying that “debt is slavery”. Her website has a whole page of quotations making that point:

    And here’s a recent interview Roland Martin did with Singletary, titled Debt Makes You A Slave:

    Tragically, this charter deal is going to screw over thousands of Dekalb students.

  15. concerned citizen says:

    Jabari is indeed an F&Fer, one of Thurmond’s best friends, so while I applaud the remaking of McNair, I deplore the relationship factor. I fear that Thurmond will set up F&Fers to run the show at McNair. Here we go again, I’m afraid. Does anyone doubt that if you really think it through? It sounds welcome, but “where’s the money”? Yes, the Druid Hills Charter failed because of the F&Fers, and there’s no secret about that. Does anyone know the names of the people who are positioned to “take over” at McNair High? It truly is an abomination as a school. What is happening to the staff who are under contract and assume their returning to McNair? Are they in the know?

  16. anothercomment says:

    My question is where is the revote on the resubmission of the North Druid Hills Charter? That better go through after this. Or does one have to put Thurman as the Board President of your charter to get it approved?

  17. howdy1942 says:

    I hope that this new charter will prove to be a success. I also hope that the Druid Hills Charter will be given the opportunity to succeed. I am strongly in favor of any new approach that provide autonomy and distance from the DCSS – hire its own teachers, set its own expectations, measure its own performance, and take its own actions to improve.

    As it now stands, the kids in Dekalb County are getting farther behind each day. Jobs today require education, skills, the ability to communicate, and the ability to work with others. Jobs today require increasing levels of technical expertise, the ability to use advanced programming tools, and greater ability to maintain those technical skills without depending on others. Companies and jobs will locate where those skills are available or can be developed in short order. And that is essential ingredient to success in Dekalb County and, for that matter, to the State of Georgia. That is not about who is “in power”, it is not about “Friends and Family”, it is not about race – it is simply about whether Dekalb has the school system that develops and educations its students. Today’s students can only expect to earn their jobs and their opportunities independent of race. Look at the makeup of the Legislature, the Congress, the courts, and look at their recent decisions. Dekalb simply cannot continue on its present course.

    Given the record of the first 14 years of this century, this new school board will either get it right or it will have little left to get right. Right now, the teachers are suing the school system. Right now, Dekalb has a huge staffing problem as it has had for many years. Right now, at least 40% of Dekalb’s residents are very dissatisfied with the DCSS, to the extent that they are willing to try anything to find independence from that school system. That dissatisfaction has been only growing with each passing day.

    Change is needed. New approaches are needed. People need to be heard and not ignored. I yearn for a day when our kids become our priority, when we can have new leadership selected not because of their race but because of their ability, and for a day when our people, our school board, and our leadership can work in harmony to equip our kids to live in a new world.

  18. Stan Jester says:

    Why do you say I support this charter? This article just lists facts. It’s up to the reader to pass judgement on:

    Conversion Charter – Is this conversion charter granted privileges and autonomy denied to other conversion charters?

    History – Do we restore trust and confidence in DeKalb Schools by engaging with Jabari Simama, who served as chief of staff under Burrell Ellis, and is accused in a grand jury report of manipulating committees that award contracts. Furthermore, the grand jury recommended a criminal investigation into Jabari Simama for possible bid-rigging.

    Budget – In the first year, the school will have 300 children and the principal will make $108K. Noel Maloof, Principal at Dunwoody High School (1500 students), made $89K.

    Transportation – Transportation is budgeted at $0.

    Performanced Based Goals – Does the school have realistic goals?

    Board Members – Is it a conflict of interest to have the superintendent on the board?

    I’m not passing judgement on this charter. I’m just laying out the facts.

  19. Has Druid Hills resubmitted their charter proposal? We are hearing something about an August 1 deadline for charters. That means today.

  20. Great questions, Stan. We also have to wonder that if they are not awarded the grant, then the superintendent will propose that the school board approve allocating millions toward this school. First, is that a conflict of interest for the super? To sit on the board of only one school and then advocate to fund this school far above all other schools? Isn’t this his reasoning for refusing Druid Hills – at least in part – saying it would ‘take’ money from other schools (which was proven to in reality, that is only due to the fact that the Druid Hills schools are not allocated nearly the funding they are due – by $11 million.)

  21. Our kids are OUR priority, they just are not DeKalb County Schools’ priority.

  22. Kim says:

    As horrible as it sounds, I view the proposals for McNair as mostly driven by politics. Career Pathways such as Health Sciences (Certified Nursing Assistants), Construction Engineering, Dental Health Sciences (Dental Assistant), Manufacturing, Auto-Tech and Cosmetology moved into Cross Keys HS in 2011 as a convenience to DeKalb.

    The leaders, faculty and the students of these programs are doing well in spite of a lack of support from DCSD and Thurmond. On his first tour of CKHS, the faculty begged him to pick up supporting the programs where DCSD had failed to do so after the move. They have been in limbo since moving from DeKalb School of Technology-North. No rescue under Thurmond so far …

    In spite of being looked over for investment, the amazing students of Brookhaven’s Cross Keys HS cleaned up at SkillsUSA Nationals again this year accounting for 9 of Georgia’s 24 medals including 3 of the 6 Gold Medallions earned by our state. Thanks in large part to the outstanding Cross Keys’ performance, Georgia placed second overall in the medal count this year. All results posted here:

    DeKalb already has sites to host Thurmond’s dream of a “Career Academy” – one at CK and one at DeKalb School of Technology-South. And they are not getting the investment needed to grow so why start investing in a THIRD site? The efforts at McNair reduce the likelihood of resources and attention coming to the existing programs at these two other properties. My fear is we will repeat the mistakes of the past and spread our dollars to thinly across too many schools.

    I wish the community and students of McNair well but have to point out that at the macro level it appears to be another “one off” effort by DCSD to give appearances of progress while scoring political points with a given constituency.

    Perhaps I’m too harsh and this is part of a longer term plan for DCSD to move the CK-based programs to McNair and move CK attendance area into Chamblee attendance. Consolidation in Region 1 was the right thing to do 20 years ago and we miffed it. Perhaps the stars are aligning. Nah, we don’t need no stinking alignment …

  23. I read most of this charter proposal last night. It is a cut and paste mess. It makes no sense. Hundreds of pages are literarily copies of the common core standards.

    For them to approve this outrageous cut and paste job that makes no sense and can not even be followed in a logical manner, is utterly outrageous. Especially n, when all they ( friends and family at the direction of the,Supt.) nit picked and cut down the Druid Hills Charter for no logical reason).

    The Druid Hills charter is a charter for the improvement of the students. This is a charter school for the enrichment of friends and family.

    A few of the more outrageous items I found.

    This is suppose to primarily be a charter to provide career ready training, a certificate, or a two year degree through dual enrollment. Is that correct.

    yet page upon page goes on about gifted education. Are gifted students going to really be going the career ready, certificate, or associate degree route?

    Then they are offering AP in every level of classes including 8 th,grade. AP does not offer courses for 8 th graders. It only recommends two classes even be attempted by the most motivated 9th graders. ( many of the North Fulton and North Cobb schools do not open these classes up to 9th graders, some only one). Then they are offering no honors classes for any kids who might be in the middle.

    Then this one tops it all Modern Languages are listed as Latin and Spanish. The Latin is clearly added for no other reason than to use it to turn down any future proposals for a Dekalb Classical academy similar to the Atlanta Classical academy that had over 1,000 applicants. Of course, most of us know that Latin is not a Modern Language. Also, why would career tech students be taking it. perhaps they should have offered Vietnamese or Korean with the Spanish.

    Then the tech choices offer some choices that are ridiculous. The two in my subject matter expertise have zero to less than 100 total openings. Architectural draftsmen have been replaced over 20 years ago, by degreed architects and engineers doing their own drawings and construction documents on Autocad ( computer aided drafting program), their is no seperate drafting pools anymore, just like the secretarial pool does not exist anymore. These professionals also use a computer program to write their own several hundred page specification, with the help of a computer program, so their is also no need for 5-8 architects/ engineers to share a secretary who types out specs all day every week. Then the mixed coursework in HVAC and electrical, is nuts. People that are Mechanical engineers and people that are electrical engineers are as different as night and day. They think differently, what matters to one in the design or project management process doesn’t matter to the other. The only area that I see the dual concentration helpful would be in HVAC controls or Building Management systems controls or management design or maintenance. This is very narrow area, dominated by Johnson controls. Yes, very few have this skill set so they are highly compensated. The best training ground is to join the US. Navy for 6 years and work on a Submarine they cross train their personnel who run the ships. I hire these folks Honorably discharged with E-5’s and above and DD-214’s that check out. The market needs blue collar electricians ( not ones trained at The State Prison at Jackson, who can not pass a back ground check), HVAC techs with the Certifications on refrigerants, Plumbers, pipefitters and Boilermakers. We especially need these trades with a co-op, on the job internship program, with the demise of the union contractors over the last 30 years in Georgia, we have also lost the Union apprenticeship and training programs.

  24. howdy1942 says:

    Maybe this new charter could offer a certificate on cutting and pasting.

  25. @KIM: We couldn’t agree more. Although we are excited to witness interest in a career-focused high school education, we also wondered why there isn’t a component to this plan to lift and expand the two career tech programs already in DeKalb – in fact, when you think about it – if compared to the reasons for denying Druid Hills – they are offering nothing truly unique. These kinds of programs exist in DeKalb – but continue to flounder from administrative neglect. This grant would have been a nice shot in the arm for the Tech program housed in Cross Keys – which is accessible via Marta rail to all. The only conclusion we can make is that the school system intends to close the program at Cross Keys and South DeKalb and only invest in the one larger charter program. (?) Just guessing here… as they make no specific mention of the existing tech programs in the proposal.

    Your point is worth repeating >>

    DeKalb already has sites to host Thurmond’s dream of a “Career Academy” – one at CK and one at DeKalb School of Technology-South. And they are not getting the investment needed to grow so why start investing in a THIRD site? The efforts at McNair reduce the likelihood of resources and attention coming to the existing programs at these two other properties. My fear is we will repeat the mistakes of the past and spread our dollars too thinly across too many schools.

  26. Actually, we’re a bit confused. It does seem that they are including the campus of The South DeKalb Tech High School. See page 768 of the proposal – it includes a diagram of that school along with diagrams of McNair. Are they combining?

    Page 37 of the proposal talks about ‘both’ facilities and plans for a build-out. It reads >>

    McNair High School Facility, located at 1804 Bouldercrest Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30316, is an existing facility with excess classroom and lab space. The District will identify classrooms and career technology labs grouped together and use these for the students in the Academy. Media center, kitchen, cafeteria, and other special program space are already available at McNair High School.

    The District will comply with all applicable local zoning and building codes. Public schools are existing uses at both sites so all zoning and land use regulations are already in compliance. Both facilities are owned by the District and a site selection form would not be required. The District will perform a detailed review of the type and location of classrooms that will be used by the Academy and assess if any minor modifications are needed for these classrooms or labs and will provide a more detailed plan for the use of the spaces at McNair High School to match with the instructional career and academic pathways that will be offered at each facility.

    Such detailed review and plan will be for the full 500 student build-out and will be completed by December 2016.

    Question 36- School Site Selection Form
    McNair High School is an existing education facility. The School Site Selection Forms are not required. (See Appendix 8 for school layout.)

    Can anyone clarify?

  27. anothercomment says:

    Bigger Questions Why AP in 8th grade? AP does not allow 8th graders to take AP courses. Also Dual Enrolment you must be 16 and a Jr. or Sr. to with a 3.0 GPA to take Dual Enrollment in one of the University System of Georgia Technical Colleges, Community Colleges or Universities. You can not take them in 8th grade, 9th grade or 10th grade. Granted a lot of Dekalbs students are 16 in these grades. But you must be in 11th grade. You must have a 3.0 GPA and have certain SAT or ACT scores to be eligible for Dual Enrollment, which are higher than the admission standards of the Community Colleges and trade Schools. ( My child did Dual Enrollment classes at Ga. Perimeter her senior year and earned 15 hrs.. The Prof, would openly proclaim in class that their best students were these 16 and 17 year old high school dual enrollment students. They were the crème of their high school classes, not the usual community college classes. Dual Enrollment had higher entrance stand .

    Then the Latin is crap. That is only to prevent other Charters from getting approved at Latin charters.

    I can’t wait to see the court fight from Druid Hills Charter. We all know it will go to the State level.

  28. kirklunde says:

    The taxpayers of DeKalb County will be paying for this school. The $3mil grant which the district is applying for is labeled for construction in the executive summary attached to the agenda of last Thursday’s meeting.

    That said, the budget is unrealistic and the math is wrong in places. Also, there are no supporting documents. Compared to the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition, this is very poor quality work. I can not imagine the state board approving this based on merits. We know it will be approved because of the politics.

    This is another example of over-paid central office employees doing shoddy work.

  29. Lord Help Us says:

    Jabari Simama is absolutely not to be trusted. Any involvement he has with this bodes for failure and a return to Friends & Family. Heck, don’t be surprised if Vernon Jones doesn’t end up in the mix somehow. Thurmond has a clear conflict of interest here. Of course the BOE rubber stamps it, without any hard, tough review and questions.

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