Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DeKalb County's unilateral decision against Druid Hills Charter Cluster forces fight to Georgia Legislature for independent school systems.

Next round will be fought here at the Capital.

As per Maureen Downey of the AJC, In a contentious 5-4 vote tonight, the DeKalb County Board of Education rejected the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition.  The "no" vote followed about four hours of tense debate. Those voting for the cluster were Thaddeus Mayfield, John Coleman, Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan.

The charter petition would have put Druid  Hills High School and six feeder schools under the management of a nonprofit organization and freed them from the reach of the central office. The cluster of schools would have its own administrators and board of directors. The petition, the first in Georgia involving the conversion of a cluster of traditional public schools, had to win the blessing of the school board to proceed as there is no appeals process in the state law. 

With no other options, the fight for an independent school system moves to the State Legislature where HR 486 presented by Representative Taylor of Dunwoody offers options for new local school systems.  
By: Representatives Taylor of the 79th, Jacobs of the 80th, Riley of the 50th, Wilkinson of the 52nd, Dudgeon of the 25th, and others


Proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to authorize any municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, and any municipality which is contiguous to a municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, irrespective of whether such municipalities may be in different counties, to establish individually or collectively by local law an independent school system; to provide for related matters; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes.



Article VIII, Section V of the Constitution is amended by revising Paragraph I as follows:

"Paragraph I.
School systems continued; consolidation of school systems authorized; new independent school systems prohibited. Authority is granted to county and area boards of education to establish and maintain public schools within their limits; provided, however, that the authority provided for in this paragraph shall not diminish any authority of the General Assembly otherwise granted under this article, including the authority to establish special schools as provided for in Article VIII, Section V, Paragraph VII. Existing county and independent school systems shall be continued, except that the General Assembly may provide by law for the consolidation of two or more county school systems, independent school systems, portions thereof, or any combination thereof into a single county or area school system under the control and management of a county or area board of education, under such terms and conditions as the General Assembly may prescribe; but no such consolidation shall become effective until approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon in each separate school system proposed to be consolidated. No independent school system shall hereafter be established; provided, however, that any municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, and any municipality which is contiguous to a municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, irrespective of whether such municipalities may be in different counties,  may establish individually or collectively by local law an independent school system."

The above proposed amendment to the Constitution shall be published and submitted as provided in Article X, Section I, Paragraph  II of the Constitution. The ballot submitting the above proposed amendment shall have written or printed thereon the following:

"( ) YES or   ( ) NO
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize any municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, and any municipality which is contiguous to a municipality created on or after January 1, 2005, irrespective of whether such municipalities may be in different counties, to establish individually or collectively by local law an independent school system?"

All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote "Yes."

All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote "No" If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state.


Rob Augustine - Dunwoody said...

We have operated in Georgia under a public school control system devised in 1945. From our rank in the educational standings nationwide, it is clear this system has not worked. Our children deserve better. Our parents deserve better. Allowing local schools once again will revitalize public education in Georgia. It will once again allow for innovation, transparency, effective use of resources, and ultimately the improvement of our state standing in education. It is an idea, just like the formation of new cities, whose time has come.

GaryRayBetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SimplyDunwoody said...

John - thank you for following this and sharing the information. Rob - you are right, an amendment that back dates 70 years, at a time when DeKalb was predominantly rural and had less than 1/10th of the current student population. The mere geographical reach of DeKalb makes its size inappropriate, add the number of students, a system that woks on a top-down approach and a one size fit all philosophy, and you have an educational disaster.

HR 486 is a resolution and a solution that will allow residents of newly created cities to decide for themselves if they would like to take on the privilege and challenge of creating an education system that meets the direct needs of their local student population.

Joe Seconder said...

If the legislation were to pass, would it apply to the Druid Hills schools situation?

Tom Taylor said...


As this legislation is tailored now, it is limited and only applies to cities incorporated after 2005. This was done because a lot of the rural systems and legislators would oppose in included all jurisdictions.

As Druid hills is unincorporated, it would not apply to them.

GaryRayBetz said...

Let me first set forth that I raised four of my children in the local public school district (Chesnut, Peachtree, and Dunwoody High) and all four of these children turned out to be brilliant, insightful, confident, and tolerant adults on a level equal to my two daughters that were educated in Wisconsin and Chicago private schools (and this even with their step-father, a doctor, being a far better and more intelligent role-model than I could ever have hoped to have been).

However, I believe that the four children that I raised down here, are much more socially adept because of the diversity that we saw the Dunwoody community embrace in the local public schools and I never want Dunwoody to lose that quality of brotherhood.

If you all want to push a doctrine of statewide local public school control - fine, but only with the stipulation that there be a federal overseer to ensure that an aggregate of these local districts never furtively evolves into a "separate but equal" segregation scenario for the reason that I don't trust the State of Georgia to ensure that this oversight will occur.

So, go ahead and implement local control, but please proceed in a circumspect and judicious manner, as it would be a tragic shame to go back to the pre-Brown vs. Board of Education days of denying school children the benefit of experiencing diversity, or inflict the psychological harm, that is caused by segregated schools, upon them. After all, it's about the ethical socialization of the children, and not whom the adults feel comfortable working with in booster clubs and PTA committees.

Rob Augustine - Dunwoody said...

No one intends to go back, Gary Ray Betz. This is actually an effort to move forward with local schools that will operate better and improve the educational experience for all children. We are stuck with these big county school systems because of a law that was passed in 1945 which prohibited any more local school districts. It was a mistake, just like big county government has been. When you have local citizens in control of their schools, or their cities,things improve and work better. Children are losing out because of the huge, expensive bureaucracy. The real focus should not be on maintaining the power and control of a school board, which has so often failed, but on providing resources to teachers in an environment that improves everyone's ability to learn.

GaryRayBetz said...

I fully realize that you, in particular, Mr. Augustine, don't want to go back to an era of segregation; however, you are a person of intellect, insight, and tolerance, which quite frankly are qualities that I find are a rarity to be possessed by one person in today's society.

My point is that as local control of school districts is much more vulnerable to being surreptitiously reverted back to a "separate but equal" system, we need the appropriate checks to monitor these local districts to ensure they don't regress.

We can't count on always having a person as perceptive and enlightened as you as one of the the decision-makers or adjudicators for each one of the locally controlled districts.

I know of a few persons that live in the community right now that would be very happy if we went back to the pre-Brown vs. Board of Education days. How do we ensure that these type of persons aren't the ones elected to positions of power on the locally controlled school boards? And if they are elected, how do we ensure that none of their segregationist-based policies aren't furtively implemented?

This should be a stark reality to us locally as we just saw a neo-conservative slate of candidates controlled by the Tea Party garner a sizable percentage of votes and and although none of them espoused a segregationist platform, some of their concepts were a bit too fanatically far-right even for a Republican stronghold like Dunwoody.

Yes, local control of school districts is fine and the arguments for this system better accommodating the needs of individual students can be documented; however, I foresee that local control of the schools will require a monitoring system from outside of the respective district as well as outside the State of Georgia to ensure that the rights of minority students are upheld and that the other students have the benefit of experiencing diversity.

Gil H. said...

My child is in a Dunwoody elementary school now that is almost 40% Hispanic. This is not the only example of diversity in Dunwoody schools, and this diversity will not be impacted when Dunwoody gains the right for local control. What will happen is that the needs of the children of Dunwoody will be better met because it won't be a one-size-fits all mentality.

Rob Augustine - Dunwoody said...

I think a majority of people possess those qualities Gary Ray. I think we are well past deliberate or intentional segregation. While there may be a few who spout such nonsense, I do not believe they would ever prevail to control a school system today. Not only would it be illegal for them to do so under the Constitution and other laws, it would be highly undesirable to most people in any case. What most people want today is a quality education for all students free of the burdens of an ineffective, often incompetent, and sometimes corrupt big system. They want the school system to provide the best experience possible. As Gil H. points out we already have substantial and desirable diversity in our schools which will not be affected by having local control of the system itself.

Daughter of the Poet said...

Puzzle Dust

When the final piece is lifted and set in place,
completing the field, filling the hole
in a grove of trees, a jagged gap
in the ocean or the flat, black sky.
When the scene is whole before me:
tiny men, arms thin as wicks, walking
briskly along a gray rain-riven street,
the woman bent to her dog under an awning,
his wet head held up with trust,
one white paw in her hand, tip
of his tail I kept trying all day
to press into the starry night, ruffled
hem of her blown-up skirt
that never fit into the distant waves
breaking along the shore,
and the bridge, its rickrack of steel girders
I thought were train tracks or a fallen fence,
when it all, at last, makes sense, a vast
satisfaction fills me: the mossy boulders,
pleasing in their eternal random piles,
the river eased around them, green
with its fever to reach the sea,
a ragged bunch of flowers gathered
from the hills I've locked together,
edge to edge, and placed in a glittering vase
behind a window streaked with rain
which the child in his woolen cap
looks into: boxes of candy wrapped
and displayed, desire burning
in his belly, precursor to the fire
that could have broken his small heart
open like a coal someday
in his future, which for him
is nothing but this empty box
layered with a fine dust, the stuff
from which he was born and will
die into, carried, weightless,
to summer's open door
where I bang my hand against
the cardboard, watch the particles,
like chaff or ashes, vanish in wind.

- Dorianne Laux

GaryRayBetz said...
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GaryRayBetz said...

Wish I could share your optimism, Mr. Augustine, but I what I've learned through my many years of dissipation, is that I can place my trust in individuals, but never in a populist group, especially one that marches under the guise of a children's crusade.

It's not just the possibility of an evolution to that of furtively segregated schools, but it's the choice of curriculum as well.

What's to stop local control from inserting "unintelligent design" and removing evolution from a science class syllabus because it reflects the values of that local community? Or injecting revisionist history in social studies classes? Or covertly hiring or firing teachers and administrative employees based upon their sexual preference or political affiliations (hell, even here in halfway progressive Dunwoody, the oath of office for the councilpersons included the declaration that the elected wasn't a member of the communist party)?

The issue for me is that local control might allow that community to ensure their schools reflect the "values" of that local community, but those values might not necessarily be ones that will allow the children to become thoughtful and open-minded adults.

Max said...

I am going to chime in here with a point of view that bridges Gary Ray;s comments and those of Gil H. and Rob Augustine, as well.

To my research there are two areas of major pushback on this Bill; both will need careful and considered supporting rationale to make Charter school local Districts a reality.

First, there will always be a racial element to this argument. As Alexis Scott so cheerfully comments, "It's the South, everything has a racial tone." As much as we try to deny it, our community is perceived as largely white, even though Gil H. points out the large Hispanic school population in his kids' school..

Dunwoody, all the eligible cities should have current, irrefutable demographic break outs to clearly show our own diversity, or lack thereon.

Second, those in favor of local, smaller school Districts need to have show that big money Charter school interests are not behind this effort. I have little desire to see corporate schools.

The status quo is not working. I support Rep. Taylor's efforts fully, and I do not have any kids - This issue is critical for everyone.

Excellent commentary...I look forward to learning more.

GaryRayBetz said...

Back when I was a 12 year-old in Chicago, my Dad had me help him rewire this big old Victorian mansion on Fox Lake for the then Chairman of the Illinois Tollway, who was also the Head Republican Committeeman for Cook County. My Dad sent me to do the dirty work of running the metal-sheathed wiring with the rats in the crawlspace and the spiders in the mansion's multiple attics - which was all 12 year-old boys were good for then and are now. The other patronage workers who were "cajoled" as well into performing work on this private residence would whisper to me that the property was going to be a "w____house for the bigwigs" when the remodeling was completed.

Any way next door on Fox Lake, there was this small tavern named "Howie's" with a small bar, a jukebox, and one of those metal disk bowling vending machines. Well, I always thought that if I ever had a bit of money to burn, that's the place I'd want to invite all my old friends to (provide the airline tickets as well if they were out of state), so I could buy them all a drink. Just because it looked out over the lake, had a juke box (with selections from Merle Haggard to the Missouri Waltz), my favorite bar game, a tin roof, served Old Style on tap in frozen glass mugs, a large jar of pickled eggs, and the owner's name on a metal sign swinging on an inverted "L" pole out front. And know that although I don't know most of y'all personally who post on here or even agree with you, y'all get an invite.

But don't get excited and pack your "remain-overnight" bags, aside from me still not being independently wealthy, as I'm sure that little tavern is probably almost 40 years gone, and old Howie has been dead so long that no one even tells the story any more about how Howie got so drunk, he succumbed to a dare and tended bar the whole night with no pants on.