We have heard a few concerns from teachers and parents about the updated requirements from the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) for conversion charter schools. These new requirements apply equally to conversion charter schools renewing their charters and to new conversion charter schools and charter clusters. Start-up charter schools have always enjoyed the autonomy that GaDOE is now requiring of conversion charters and charter clusters.
In Georgia, now ALL charter schools shall be autonomous.
Primary indicators of autonomy (per GaDOE), which must be shown in charter petitions or renewal applications for charter schools, are:
• Must make personnel decisions
• Must recruit governing board members without school district or EMO/CMO*assistance
• Must make decisions about what happens in the school
• May contract for services traditionally provided by the school district
• Must set school budget spending priorities
• Must have an independent audit firm and attorney
Concerns over these requirements for autonomy range from worries about parents micromanaging the school and/or individual teachers … to … non-educators having positions of authority (i.e., governing board) … to … mismanagement of the budget … to … questionable hiring practices … to … well, whatever dastardly act could be imagined.
Actually, the abuse of power described in the paragraph above is exactly what is happening in traditional DeKalb County Schools right now: micromanagement, threatening teachers, non-educators having positions of authority, budget mismanagement, questionable hiring practices, lack of transparency, etc.
Unlike DeKalb Schools Mega-District, a much smaller charter school is run collaboratively by teachers and parents and community members — all of whom have a stake in the school’s success. The governing board is a policy-setting body representing all stakeholders of the charter school. Everyone has a voice. All – teachers, parents, students, community – are actually heard. Day-to-day academics and operations of a charter school may be overseen by a principal who is hired by the governing board, with input from stakeholders, and who reports to the governing board. In other charter school models, the principal’s job may be split into two components: Chief Academic Officer (CAO) and Chief Operations Officer (COO). Staff for both positions will still be hired by the governing board, with input from stakeholders. The governing board, with input from stakeholders, will determine the reporting relationships of the CAO and COO.
Change is always hard. But, conversion charter schools & clusters are being given a wonderful and invaluable opportunity to get out from under the jackboot heel of those who have run DeKalb County Schools into the ground. By managing people, time and money, individual charter schools and charter clusters may, as their budget allows:
• reinstate Social Security participation
• eliminate furlough days
• give teachers raises
• encourage classroom innovation leading to student mastery of skills
• ensure that classrooms and the school have necessary supplies and equipment
• set and enforce student behavior standards and expectations
• encourage stakeholder collaboration – teachers : parents : students : community
• hire the best, most qualified teachers, not just those who cannot find a job elsewhere, are friends-and-family, or who are part of the Palace cabal
• hire the best, most qualified administrators, not just those who are friends-and-family or who are part of the Palace cabal
• ensure transparency in all financial and administrative matters
In short, charter schools and charter clusters offer local control.
Even with all of this flexibility, charter schools are still public schools. Charter schools must adhere to all applicable federal and state laws. And, charter schools must educate their students.
Charter schools must meet the provisions of their charter or lose their charter. Charter schools that do not perform can and will be shut down.
None of the above applies to the cabal that controls DeKalb County Schools.
So, let us ask you this question: Could well-planned, locally managed charter schools do worse than DCSD is doing right now?