Charter Schools and Clusters Offer Promise and Hope for Teachers, Taxpayers and Students

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:

People
Charter schools:
• Must make personnel decisions
• Must recruit governing board members without school district or EMO/CMO*assistance

Time
Charter schools:
• Must make decisions about what happens in the school
• May contract for services traditionally provided by the school district

Money
Charter schools:
• 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?

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15 Responses to Charter Schools and Clusters Offer Promise and Hope for Teachers, Taxpayers and Students

  1. FrmrDKTeach says:

    I was thinking that once I wasn’t a DCSD teacher anymore that I would stop getting that horrible feeling in my stomach when I read things like this, but that hasn’t been the case.

  2. FrmrDKTeach says:

    Wrong article. Sorry. Although I imagine that when I read it my feeling won’t be that different.

  3. howdy1942 says:

    I welcome any change that would improve the education of our kids and improve the working conditions of our teachers. And I am not a school teacher nor am I a retired school teacher nor do I have anyone in our family who is employed by a school system. This is simply about what is right and what is wrong.

    Our teachers are really getting shafted by the abrupt decision of our school board a few years back to drop its contributions to the retirement program that both the teachers and the school system agreed upon about 40 years ago. I regret very much that this agreement was not made in writing and, as such, became a debt obligation of the Dekalb County School System. But that agreement was reached at a time when we trusted each other. The teachers believed that the Dekalb County School System could be trusted so do what it said it would do. Well, so much for that. Perhaps I could understand some short term difficulties as we all experienced during the Great Recession, but I would have expected the school system to talk to the teachers and work out a way in which the commitments made by the DCSS could be kept. I don’t think the teachers were or are unreasonable, but I do think that the school system has lost the trust of so many and I certainly would never believe anything that the DCSS ever said involving money unless an agreement were put in writing. I don’t know where that lawsuit stands, but I hope that it will come before the court sooner rather than later. As a taxpayer, I don’t look forward to the outcome but, as a person, I look forward to justice being served.

    The treatment of our teachers is one big reason why I want a charter school system in Tucker much like the one proposed by Druid Hills. As I see it, we need to have a school system whose governance and administration can be respected and trusted, one that would be responsive to our people, and one that would manage our resources wisely. I want a system where our leadership is chosen based on merit and not by race or by any connection with anyone in the school system. I want a system where we can talk to each other and one in which all parties listen to each other. I can remember making comments before the school board at one of its meeting and during the 2 minutes 25 seconds in which I spoke, Eugene Walker, Sarah Copelin-Wood, and Jay Cunningham were talking with each other – they were not listening and, since they continued to talk during the next speaker, certainly were not talking about anything I or anyone else was saying. That was just plain rude and disrespecting of everyone. I have never spoken before this board again and have no intentions of doing so until we have some real change.

    The people who live in Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Lakeside, Tucker, Druid Hills, and a growing geography in Dekalb County are seeking change. And sooner or later, they are going to be heard. I cannot understand why the Dekalb County School Board and its administration will not sit down with the people in these communities, understand their grievances, develop solutions and work toward restoring trust and confidence in the DCSS. Dunwoody and Brookhaven are now cities and are depriving Dekalb County of some very significant tax revenues. They don’t yet have that option with the school system because they, like the rest of us, are held captive by some an unwise amendment in the Georgia Constitution that is over 70 years old and designed at a time when Georgia was far smaller and very differently constituted. Moreover, the school systems in Georgia were segregated and that would not change for almost 25 years. That is how much things have change since that amendment was added. And, at some point, that will change and the Dekalb County School System would do well to anticipate that change and work with the people rather than continue to arrogantly cling to the past.

  4. Stan Jester says:

    Infinite Campus – Where do I get the Activation Key?

    http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/infinite-campus/
    * Click on Parents
    * Campus Portal Parent Login
    * DCSD Portal Account Activation
    * Enter Student Info
    * Activate Your Parent Portal Account Now
    * Enter Activation Key

    Where do I get the Activation Key? It says “Activating your Campus Portal parent portal account is easy. All you need is your Campus Portal Activation Key sent to you by your child’s school.” As far as I know, we never received an activation key from our child’s school.

  5. thedeal2 says:

    Stan, I was able to log on using the credentials from eSis. I didn’t need an activation key or the county code.

  6. concernedmome30329 says:

    Many parents and students who did have accounts with eSIS were inadvertently dropped when the system rolled over. If you try to log in using your eSIS info and it doesn’t recognize you, chances are you were dropped. You can call the help line at 678-676-1131 between 8:30 am and 8 pm. They were actually pretty quick to respond. If you were dropped, you have to go to your school, show your ID (usually to the registrar) and get your activation code to set up a new account just like with eSIS. The difference is once you log in and follow the steps to create a new account, you will have an active account, no waiting several days like eSIS.

    Once you have your IC account set up, you can search your App store on your mobile device for Infinite Campus. When you find it, put the Dekalb code in: FLZLHV. Then you will be asked to put in your infinite campus account info. Once done, you will have IC on your mobile device.

  7. @Howdy: What you say is so true. In fact, the ‘new’ board – mostly appointed by the Governor and the ‘new’ superintendent – hired by the old ‘bad’ board, have failed to do the ONE thing that would improve morale and set a course for better teaching and learning: Make things right for teachers. Period. They have not. They continue pay lawyers to fight teachers in court and continue to allow the promised additional contributions to retirement funds in lieu of social security go unpaid and function as a budget cut. We don’t understand exactly how this is legal, as ALL employers have to pay 13.5% of gross pay into social security (employees pay half of that – employers pay the other half – self-employed pay the whole thing).

  8. howdy1942 says:

    I’m sure that we have all read about the travails of Commissioner Elaine Boyer. As I understand it, she authorized payment of $78,000 for services that were never performed and, in turn, received $58,000 back. That is in addition to credit card abuse. This is sad and is criminal, but she did admit her guilt, is now cooperating with law officials, and is awaiting sentencing, probably next week. I suspect that she is under extreme emotional duress, very embarrassed, and very distraught. While I don’t like what she did, she did confess and I pray that she will find the strength to get through this to the other side. My strong suspicion is that what she did pales in comparison to what has been done in the Dekalb County School System.

    The AJC has really done some tremendous detective work and brought so many instances of malfeasance by elected officials. I hope that it will now turn its attention to the Dekalb County School System. As I mentioned previously, Interim CEO Lee May has approved an audit of all expenses of the Dekalb County Commission going back 10 years. At a minimum, that should be done for the Dekalb County School Board. Perhaps there are others, but I would be pressed to find another public body that I suspect has squandered so many of the resources provided to it by the taxpayers. Why has such a minimal audit not been performed? Is any outside audit ever done on the DCSS? Has it ever?

    Some have pointed out that the furlough days have been eliminated and that teachers are at least getting a 1% raise. That pales in comparison to what other districts are doing for their teachers. The Dekalb County School System gets 70% of every property tax dollar paid by our residents and the incorporated cities in Dekalb are increasing that substantially. Dekalb has one of the largest tax bills in the State and what does it have to show for it? My biggest issue with the Dekalb School System is that I have no trust in it. For years, it has arrogantly ignored even the slightest attempt at input from anybody north of US 78. And it has done very little, if anything, to improve the educational quality of any school in Dekalb. The Dekalb County School System will never change itself from the inside nor will it do it voluntarily. Governor Deal is really in a box – he really can’t say anything negative about a board that he appointed. And he really has no choice but to lobby SACS to make a county in the State he governs “look” as good as possible. But the AJC has shown its investigative skills and I hope that it uses them to shine a bright light on the Dekalb School System. I know that it will hurt property values in the short term, but we really need to fix the problems that have plagued us for so long and will continue to plague us until some outside force forces a change.

  9. Elaine Boyer gets what she deserves. This blog long ago reported on the $20,000 donation to the ‘cheerleading’ fund at Lakeside HS from a big developer Sembler, looking to buy the school system’s Druid Hills property for a major development as well as an enormous tax abatement for Town Brookhaven. [Board Chair Eugene Walker also received a $20,000 campaign contribution.] She was running for office at the time and her daughters were cheerleaders at Lakeside HS (even though they are zoned for Tucker). We called for an audit and investigation as to where this money actually went back then – but our calls fell on deaf ears all around.

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-dekalb-developmental-authority-about.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2009/06/latest-update-on-sembler-proposal-for.html

    Bottom line: She boldly stole from taxpayers. She and her ‘evangelical’ accomplice should be punished to the fullest extent. Both are in positions of power that should be above reproach. Obviously, both are nothing but scam artists.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/criminal-charges-filed-against-former-dekalb-commi/ng82z/
    http://www.myajc.com/news/boyer-card-meals/

    Also – the article below states, “County records show Boyer signed an agreement that stipulated the cards could not be used for personal purchases and that such misuse could result in civil action or criminal prosecution.”
    http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/dekalb-official-spent-county-funds-on-herself/nfH4g/#3a112233.3493094.735472

    Did Crawford Lewis sign a similar agreement?

  10. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – I appreciate your comment. I do not know Elaine Boyer beyond what I read in the local papers. Based on those articles, Ms. Boyer authorized $78,000 for work that was not done and accepted a kickback in the amount of $58,000. In addition, the articles indicate multiple abuses of her County credit card and, from my perspective, she knew what she was doing and knew that it was illegal. Her decisions were made personally and her crime was personal. She has entered a guilty plea and likely serve a prison term, which is entirely appropriate. Because she did enter a guilty plea, there will be no possibility that Dekalb County taxpayers will pay any of her legal expenses.

    Now, let’s contrast that to Crawford Lewis. The Chief Operations Officer did illegally falsify documents that resulted in millions of dollars in business contracts to be terminated with companies, such as Heery, and did have those contracts awarded to her husband’s firm. They are both in prison. Mr. Lewis knew about those shenanigans, accepted kickbacks and favors from Pope. This was no “misunderstanding” of Dekalb County ethics or any of its procedures. Like Ms. Boyer, his decision to accept favors and kickbacks from Pope were personal decisions. How is that different from what Ms. Boyer did? Courtesy of the Dekalb County School Board, the taxpayers of Dekalb County footed at least $100,000 in legal fees for him to defend his personal conduct. His case was very poorly (my assessment) handled by the Dekalb District Attorney’s office. From the outset, the Dekalb DA did not want to prosecute and that showed in the court proceedings and is even more evident today where our DA is “arguing” for Mr. Lewis. Because of the DA’s seemingly poor handling of the case, I couldn’t begin to speculate how much all of this has cost Dekalb taxpayers. And look at the similar handling of Burrell Ellis’ case that has disintegrated into a name calling contest. This thing has just gone on and on and has now become a big source of embarrassment to Dekalb County. I’ll leave the Ellis case to the jury but, like Ms. Boyer, Mr. Lewis deserves jail time. The difference in Ms. Boyer’s case and that of Mr. Lewis is that the Feds seem to know what they are doing.

    Now let’s move on to today. Mr. Lewis testified that at least two members of the Dekalb County School Board knew about his efforts to fire Ms. Pope. He further testified that he told the members of the Dekalb County School Board the reasons why he wanted to fire her and that was surely the shenanigans described above. Accordingly, those two board members were clearly knowledgeable of what was going on and not only did they take not action but they specifically stopped Mr. Lewis from taking action. Accordingly, it is apparent that they knew of this criminal activity, approved of it by virtue of their instructions to Mr. Lewis, and they allowed Ms. Pope to continue with her criminal activity. In short, there became implicated in that criminal activity. My perspective is that those two board members not only should be identified, but should stand trial for being implicated in aiding and abetting criminal activity that cost the taxpayers of Dekalb County millions. Yet our district attorney is convinced that the Dekalb County School System can “police itself”. I disagree.

    I could go on, but I think my points have been made. Ms. Boyer should go to prison, So should Crawford Lewis. Those two board members should be identified and tried, even if they are no longer serving on the board. Finally, I can assure you that had I been that superintendent candidate from Charlotte whose confidential information was “leaked” by members of the school board, Dekalb County would have had a major civil lawsuit on its hands. Despite assurances by then school board chairman, Tom Bowen, that those responsible would be identified and dealt with, nothing was ever done.

    There is probably a lot of other instances, but I think that there are clear reasons for an outside light to shine on the Dekalb County School Board and administration. My understanding is that Mr. Thurmond will leave next year and that means that we must initiate a search, screen candidates, and name a superintendent. Given the makeup of the new school board, I don’t expect the result will be much better than what happened the last time we did this. We’ll see.

  11. Here’s how Lewis’ case is different: He is well-connected to the DeKalb DA and has had the support of the county prosecutor’s office. The judge tried to sentence him to a lousy one year in jail and the prosecution hit the roof stating that Lewis made a ‘deal’… yeah, right. All he testified was that he ‘felt’ blackmailed by Pope and feared she would tell his wife of his affairs. Whooopee.

    FWIW, we completely agree with all of your points.

  12. howdy1942 says:

    @DSW – you’ve pointed this out many, many times, but I am now convinced that there is a strong network that runs through the Dekalb County Commission, the Dekalb County School Board, the District Attorney’s office, and colleges located in and run by Dekalb County. For years, it has been the same names coming up in different positions that keeps this whole mess alive. Accordingly, it is very, very clear that change and integrity cannot be restored from within and, more importantly, our government and school system has lost the trust of the public. That trust is fundamental to preserving our form of government. As you point out, there are many who live in Dekalb that are oblivious to this reality, but there are also a lot of people, many of which participate in this blog, who are well-informed, care about Dekalb County, and who also want something done.

    I am writing a letter to Ms. Sally Yates explaining why I believe this is the case is beyond the capability of Dekalb County to address and asking her to initiate an outside investigation that would expand beyond the conduct of the present Commission, but also reach into all areas cited by that Grand Jury last year as well as reach into the conduct of the members of the Dekalb County School Board and its top administrators. There is just too much misconduct at high levels that has obviously gone on for too long and that this misconduct will never be properly investigated and addressed internal to Dekalb County. We apparently don’t have any internal controls to know anything about what is going on.

  13. Since, WSB has now uncovered that Sutton -Barnes live -in boyfriends only other Dekalb County customer was DA James. He was also only Creating and printing these very expensive $34,000 business cards for Sutton- Barnes for DA James.

    Sally Yates office needs to follow the dots WSB reports have discovered over to the DA’s office in Dekalb.

    I think they will also all find that Kevin Ross connects both the Dekalb and Fulton DA’s office. His daughter was hired by the Fulton DA as an attorney. Remember she was shot by her husband when she was sitting mid day ( while not at work in a car with another man in a south Atlanta residential neighborhood). They have never identified this other man who was shot and injured. Then the husband end up committing suicide with his body floating in a lake by the end of the day ( sounds too much like the Vince Foster in DC incident to me). Kevin Ross is the common denominator between the Atlanta Water shed and M ayor Campbell bribe / lying conviction and the Dekalb water department Burrell Ellis case. Then Ricky Rowe, the gate keeper to prebid meetings and Mayor Campbell’s Friday night poker games where the money was actually passed by him winning, every hand. ( a contractor told me, I told the FBI after R icky Rowe suddenly died before the trial died, the FBI said we didn’t release that. How did you know? A ticked off contractor) . Then Condy Moody dies in her early 50’s right before she is suppose to testify in the Pope/Reid/Lewis case.

    This all stinks in Dekalb and Fulton and their are a lot more involved.

  14. Howdy, just call Sally Yates office. They quickly either have an investigator from their office or the FBI call you back. I have been called back by the FBI as quickly as within an hour. I always have been called back within one working day. I give substantial leads and tips.

    On one thing I looked up cases of Bank and developer/ builder fraud they told me they were working on it and they would get them all. They have knocked them down one by one. I could help by giving them specifics from my neighborhood and tax rolls, since I know it best and what is out of line.

  15. howdy1942 says:

    @Another comment – good advice! I’ll make that call. We have just got to clean up and clean out Dekalb County Government especially at the governance and top administrative levels and this applies equally to the Dekalb County School System and its top administration as well as the District Attorney’s office. Why did it take the FBI, AJC, and WSBTV to bring all of this to light? Why didn’t Dekalb County and its school system have internal controls in place that would stop this kind of crap? Why hasn’t the District Attorney made any progress toward investigating the findings of that Grand Jury? Why? Why? Why?

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