AJC Reports: DeKalb superintendent says charter school cluster should be denied (again)

The AJC is reporting that in all likelihood, the Druid Hills Charter will again be denied by the DeKalb school board.

A renewed proposal to convert a cluster of public schools to private management is garnering the same negative assessment from DeKalb County school administrators that it got the first time around.

Superintendent Michael Thurmond is recommending that his school board again deny a request by a group of parents and educators who want to create a “charter cluster” using existing public schools in and around one of the wealthiest parts of the county.

The school board voted 5-4 to deny an earlier petition by the group, which sought to place Druid Hills High School and six feeder schools under under a private nonprofit organization with its own board of directors. Approval would have put about 5,000 students in the hands of a governing board whose members were not elected by voters in the way a regular school board is.

The proposal was a hot-button issue in the recent school board election, and the outcome for three incumbents — one won; two lost — was consistent with their votes on the petition and sentiments in the areas they represent. One incumbent in north DeKalb who voted against the petition was rejected by voters. Another in south DeKalb who voted the same way was spared. A third, also in south DeKalb, who voted for the cluster, lost the election.

Read more here >> Charter school cluster should be denied, administration says


In addition, Maureen Downey, of the AJC’s Get Schooled blog, posed the question, “Druid Hills: Could its charter cluster idea fare better with APS?”

This is interesting. Druid Hills is debating joining the city of Atlanta, which could shift thousands of DeKalb County students to Atlanta.

According to the AJC:

Residents in the Druid Hills neighborhood, one of the oldest and wealthiest communities in the Atlanta area, will soon consider a key question about their future: Should they stay or go?

Click the link to read more >> “Druid Hills: Could its charter cluster idea fare better with APS?”

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24 Responses to AJC Reports: DeKalb superintendent says charter school cluster should be denied (again)

  1. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Just a point of clarity regarding this statement:
    The charter cluster concept has been greeted with enthusiasm in north DeKalb, where there is a history of frustration with the management of the district. But it has created suspicion in the county’s south side, where poverty is higher and there is a fear that the wealthier parts of the county want to peel away into such clusters, leaving only the poorest sections under the district administration. Proponents of the Druid Hills cluster note, though, that a majority of their schools have high poverty and other challenges, such as immigrant populations.

    The wealth of a neighborhood does not influence the funding of the schools in that area of the county. Schools are funded by pupil – using a formula concocted at the state called QBE. Depending on need – special education, gifted status, etc, pupils are individually allocated a dollar amount from the state and then additional amounts from the federal and county governments (regardless of where you live in the county). Schools where enough students qualify for free or reduced price lunches to render the entire school labeled “Title 1”, more federal dollars are applied to those schools.

  2. dsw2contributor says:

    I posted this under Maureen’s blog:

    Between May 28 and July 2, 2014 SIX HUNDRED and EIGHTY-EIGHT (688) Dekalb TEACHERS QUIT their jobs.

    All of their resignations are documented by the Dekalb County School District’s monthly Human Resources Reports. These reports are provided to the school board and are posted on the DCSD website.

    The June 2014 report says 16 teachers resigned, the July 2014 report says 490 teachers resigned, and the August report says another 182 teachers resigned.

    16 + 490 + 182 == 688

  3. dsw2contributor says:

    The MY – Not Yours – AJC article also says:

    A letter from Thurmond to his school board Friday said the new petition was essentially the same as the old one. A review committee “determined that these items lacked substantive modification or edits from the original petition’s responses,” the letter said. It also said the new petition “has not remedied the deficiencies” outlined in a letter from the school board after that first denial vote.

    Matt Lewis, the chairman of the charter cluster board, said he hadn’t received a copy of the letter and couldn’t comment on it. However, Lewis disagreed with the review committee’s assessment.

    “We believe that our refiled petition responds specifically to each point made” by the district, he said.

    It’s unclear what happens next. Georgia law establishes a process for original petitions but is more ambiguous about resubmitted petitions, though it clearly allows for them. The DeKalb school board meets Monday, but as of Friday the charter cluster petition was not on its agenda.

  4. howdy1942 says:

    This news is very disappointing. I don’t think that Mr. Thurmond or any administrator has presented any specific evidence that this charter lacks significant potential to succeed. Dekalb County residents deserve the opportunity to see if this approach can be successful. If it isn’t, then the schools in that cluster can simply be re-absorbed back into the Dekalb School System and we can all study the lessons learned. If it is successful, then we can study this model, measure the successes, understand the underlying factors to those successes, and use it as a basis of expanding.

    Mr. Thurmond needs to be specific in his reasons for recommending that this petition be denied and those who submitted this petition need to present their responses and all of this needs to be done in public. Mr. Thurmond should not be permitted to use a broad brush as a basis for his recommendation. Nor should any member of the school board be allowed to do so. I sense that the Dekalb School administration fears this petition precisely because it offers another management team the chance to succeed whereas the DCSS administration has failed so miserably in so many areas and is simply afraid to put its record of management on the line. The DCSS sees this cluster as competition while others in the County see it as an opportunity.

    I don’t know the people in Druid Hills who prepared this petition, but I have read it. It emphasizes the classroom in its allocation of resources as well as a comparatively small administration. It exudes confidence in its ability to manage, govern, and lead this smaller system of 5,000 students. The Dekalb County School System has clearly been governed, lead, and managed into a big ditch. The problems in the Dekalb County System is the major reason why Dekalb County has not recovered from the Great Recession, why businesses are not re-locating here, and why the property values in Unincorporated Dekalb remain stagnant. And it is very clear that the schools in Dekalb have not, with few exceptions, improved as measured by any metric. And the schools in Dekalb that are bearing the brunt of these problems are located in the poorest sections of the County.

    If we are ever going to have a good school system with improving metrics for our students, we have got to try new approaches and new techniques. And that includes management structure, governing structure and, in many cases, the personnel within those structures. Give our kids a new opportunity and don’t force them to continue to live in this mess that adults have made.

  5. Not so casual observer says:

    Apparently, the Druid Hills people should have just asked Thurmond to sit on their board and all would be well.

  6. thedeal2 says:

    Doesn’t Thurmond work FOR the BOE? If I had an employee make a recommendation, I would certainly consider it, but it would not be considered a slam dunk. If we had a BOE comprised of the right people, Thurmond would not only be ignored, he would be on his way out.

    If you look at this situation from 10,000 feet, does it not take your breath away the efforts that DeKalb County residents are taking to free themselves from the school system? DHCC, cityhood efforts, Druid Hills considering annexation into Atlanta, amending the state constitution. These are all very considerable efforts and are symptoms of the same cancer, DCSD. If only there were a clear path to dissolve the school system as it is and start over.

  7. I find it odd how everyone mentions metrics, leadership, money, classrooms etc.. Folks in DeKalb want change at DCSS, they have wanted it for over a dozen years! However, how can anyone expect change when the folks, who directed DCSS into the abyss, are still working for the system? Hey Thurmond, want to be a leader? Clean out the Palace. The majority of the folks Crawford Lewis and Tyson hired are still around writing their little reports that fits their narrative. “DCSS needs more money for leadership and not so much for the teachers.” How’s that working out Thurmond? Almost 700 teachers have resigned in the past three months. That alone should bode well for our kids in DeKalb! Right? Hey I think it is time for Ramona to set up more charettes and blue ribbon panels, followed by a long report that will most likely be a cut and paste of the previous ones. They worked so well in the past…. lol. Get a grip DeKalb, as long as Eugene Walkers hand picked staff are in entrenched at the Palace, do not expect change anytime soon.

  8. Weary Worker says:

    I am a bit confused by the original AJC article on the Druid Hills annexation. The true Druid Hills neighborhood is the original Oldstead designed area that mostly extends from Briarcliff to Clifton north of Ponce de Leon (there is also a smaller sector that includes West Parkwood) But a map in the AJC on the annexation showed a much larger are that Included Heaton Park, and portions of Briarwood Hills. If only the original area is annexed I’m don’t think this would include many students since many households in Druid Hills proper if they have kids send them to private schools. If the map is correct and other neighborhoods are annexed then it’s a different story with many students being allowed to go to APS and DH High, Fernbank ES and possibly even Briar Vista ES sites facing being in the city of Atlanta.

  9. deecab2bad says:

    The citizens and board members voting against the Charter Cluster petition are adding fuel to the cityhood and new-school-systems-in-cities amendment initiatives. Either way, the status quo cannot and must not continue. I don’t understand why they don’t see that.

    Meanwhile, I will work on an exit strategy for my own children. Just think about all the fun we could have been having if I had poured the time into constructive family activities instead of attending DCSD board meetings, citizen involvement meetings, re-districting meetings, charrettes, etc. over the past 7 years.

  10. dsw2contributor says:

    Maureen has a blog entry about the story; she included the text of the story:

    I posted this comment under it:

    J. Alvin Wilbanks (Superintendent of Gwinnett Schools) was the keynote speaker during last week’s Dekalb County Schools Leadership Conference.

    Maureen, I triple-dog dare you to publish Mr. Wilbank’s address to Mr. Thurmond and the rest of Dekalb County schools leadership.

  11. deecab2bad says:

    Ooh, I’d love to read Wilbanks’s remarks as well!

  12. howdy1942 says:

    @thedeal2 and @AtlantaMediaGuy – I could not have stated it any better than you did!!

    Eventually, this will not end very well for the Dekalb County School System as it now stands. Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Druid Hills, Lakeside, and Tucker will ultimately find ways in which address their concerns. The Dekalb County School System administration and leadership and, yes, even the school board has so alienated this group of people. The DCSS has not listened. As Deekab2bad pointed out, wouldn’t it have been so much better if the DCSS had listened and all the energy being used by so many to exit the DCSS had, instead, been used to build the DCSS.

    Right now, the administration and powers in place are working to force their will on those groups that are trying to exit the DCSS because these tax dollars are needed. At some point, the Dekalb County Commission needs to step in and bring some resolution. The loss of tax revenues from Druid Hills would be devastating to the County and to the school system and, if Druid Hills is annexed by Atlanta, those tax revenues would be lost forever. The DCSS is on a very destructive path and needs to learn that the best way forward is to listen, truly listen, to the people who have grievances. The people who live in the five areas I listed above are intelligent, rational people who have some very good ideas that should be incorporated into the thinking of the DCSS, yet the DCSS is not listening. Does anyone on this blog know of any forums, meetings, community meetings or other gatherings where this has been done – where the DCSS has listened and not talked?

    The Atlanta Public School Systems has had it share of problems, but it seems to have righted the ship and seems to be moving ahead. There is an air of excitement, an air of hope. Dekalb is, well, still being Dekalb. I can’t wait for that to change – and it will!

  13. concerned citizen says:

    Comeon now, Maureen…finish the job, please…publish Wilbanks’ remarks, please! If you will not, advise where his remarks can be found.

  14. Sir Quagmire says:

    What I remember from the leadership meeting. Wilbanks’s granddaughter and Thurmond’s daughter were college roommates at UGA! Wilbanks also mentioned his teaching days in Dekalb and reminisced about several people he worked with. He had a PowerPoint as well but there was so much text, it was hard to read. It was all recorded, so there should be a way to get a transcript.

  15. Does anyone know where to get a video or transcript of the summer leadership meeting? (The one with the David and Goliath theme) Was it recorded? We are hearing that it was.

    Here is the link to the one from 2012. Have we become even more opaque than we were back then?

  16. Stan Jester says:

    Summer Leadership Meeting
    I got it yesterday and will upload it on YouTube ASAP.

  17. Stan Jester says:

    2014 Summer Leadership Conference
    Alice Thompson
    Donna Dees
    Melvin Johnson
    Michael Thurmond
    Video – A David For Every Goliath
    Trenton Arnold
    Johnathon Clark
    Morcease Beasley

    I haven’t acquired the video of Wilbanks yet.

  18. Awesome Stan!!! Thank you so very much!! We can’t wait until you add the Wilbanks video to your collection!

  19. Here’s an AJC article about DeKalb’s summer leadership conference

    Educators have a lot of giants to fight, one noted superintendent says

    Borrowing from a biblical tale, Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks told scores of principals in neighboring DeKalb County Tuesday that they must fight for education in the nimble way that David slew Goliath.

    The well-known superintendent of Georgia’s largest school district was speaking at a DeKalb County School District leadership conference at the invitation of DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond. Wilbanks said educators face an army of obstacles like the giant in the Bible, from negative media to selfish parents to policymakers who call for resource-draining initiatives.

    One example, he said, was the new law in Georgia that allows educators to carry guns into schools when school boards authorize it. Wilbanks said he doesn’t oppose civilians toting guns except where they are inappropriate, and he included schools in that category. “That’s all we need, for everybody to be packing,” he said, to boisterous laughter from the principals in the auditorium.

    Can’t wait to read the whole transcript of Wilbanks speech.

  20. The irony of the situation continues to amaze us. It’s so incongruent that the school district is encouraging lowly teachers to ‘slay dragons’ in order to fight for the children. But think about it – who or what are the ‘dragons’ in the way of the teachers? The DeKalb administrators themselves of course!!

    It’s along the lines of cognitive dissonance: http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/f/dissonance.htm

    Crazy really.

  21. dsw2contributor says:

    I see that you are adding transcripts from the entire first day of the Summer Leadership Conference — that is absolutely awesome! I was hoping just to see Wilbank’s speech posted, but your posting the whole day is just incredible…..500 thumbs up for you!

    If you are on heart medication, have it handy before viewing the videos and transcripts. The brown-nosing is epic, as is Mr.Thurmond’s explanation about how he got his job.

    I encourage everyone to watch Alvin Wilbanks’ presentation. I think he was amazing, but perhaps he may have been too “inside baseball” for non-educrats to appreciate?

    Principal Clark’s presentation is also worth viewing — he shared some GREAT news about individual schools that we don’t often hear good news from. Here are two quick cut-and-paste excerpts from Stan’s page:

    “We had multiple schools that had double digit increases. If you look at certain schools like Cedar Grove, Chestnut, Dresden, 16 and 19 percentage points growth on the writing assessment from one year to the next. That’s substantial. Grade 8 writing. McNair, Cedar Grove … 19 and 15 percent growth. That’s significant. ”

    “Knollwood and Meadowview double digit increases in 2 areas as well as increases in all 5 areas. McClindon ES and Pleasantdale ES and Rock Chapel, double digit increases in 2 of the 5 areas. Those indicate a significant growth and the success of what’s happening at that level with those students at those schools”

    MEGA THUMBS UP to Cedar Grove, Chestnut, Dresden, McNair, Knollwood, Meadowview, McClindon ES, Pleasantdale ES and Rock Chapel!

  22. Not so casual observer says:

    Race hustlers.

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