With the State Board of Education giving the DeKalb school board another month to show progress on getting its house in order, parents on the School Council of Dunwoody High School discussed the accreditation issue at a meeting last week and voted unanimously to send a letter to Governor Nathan Deal and the state school board asking for dissolution of the current school board.
The state board interviewed the county board last week before granting the extension. The state board has the power under law to ask the governor to remove the local board.
The Dunwoody school council letter read, in part, that lack of action would have a devastating impact on students’ scholarship and collegiate opportunities.
The letter also asked Deal to do the following:
• Appoint a new, transitional school board that represents the needs of all children in DeKalb County
• Require that the DeKalb School District administration completely restructure its operations, eliminate redundancy, improve its financial systems and restore budgetary focus on students
• Disengage the Hope Scholarship from school accreditation as a requirement.
• Provide for local school control
• Change the current school and district accreditation process and provider to focus on student achievement and financial responsibility rather than administrative and political process.
• Restore funding to public education
County school board member Nancy Jester attended the school council’s meeting last week and spoke to parents about a portfolio approach to managing the schools. Jester said she was speaking as a board member, but not for the board. A portfolio approach provides each school with the funding to run their school to meet the individual needs of the children in their community.
Jester said she believes that communities would find a solution that is unique and best fitting for the children at their schools. This could include setting individual school calendars and budgets.
“That’s something that any centralized system cannot do,” said Jester. “I like that from a philosophical standpoint.”
Citing an example of the very successful museum school in Avondale Estates, Jester said that the portfolio approach would allow for more schools with that same model. The museum school is in high demand with a long waiting list.
“Why can’t we just make more of them,” said Jester.
A day later, the county held a public information meeting at DHS to review school facilities that will be under construction during the 2016 – 2017 school year and to ask for public input. The only school listed in Dunwoody was the replacement of Austin Elementary School.
Two parents directed capacity issue comments to county administrators. Tammy Anderson, who has children in elementary and middle school, asked why the district is ending up over capacity at Dunwoody schools after putting together plans to rebuild. Nearly all schools will be over 100 percent capacity with DHS the highest at 143 percent and Peachtree Charter Middle School at 125 percent as compared to other schools in the county like McNair at 46 percent.
“What considerations go into how you decide what’s going to be rebuilt and where are you going to put the students,” asked Anderson?
Leslie Bauman expressed the same concerns and said that at PCMS, kids are eating on stage because there is not enough room in the cafeteria.
Administrators also heard from Constance Tolbert, a senior at the DeKalb School of the Arts who said she thinks students at her school have been bulled by the county.
“The motto for the county seems to be neglect, undermine and decommission excellence and exalt mediocrity,” said Tolbert, “or as one board member phrased it ‘equity of process across the district’.”