July 22 brings us to another important election in DeKalb regarding education. Unfortunately your vote will probably have little effect on the direction of the school system. Let’s just look at a few of the dynamics of the race. Only three districts will choose a member to serve on the board.
Michael Irwin a Deal appointee and Atticus LeBlanc, a real newcomer. I got to spend time around both of them during the campaign. Both are nice, articulate individuals. That’s where the similarities end. Mr Irwin sends his children to a charter school in north DeKalb, but does not support the Druid Hills Charter Cluster. Mr. LeBlanc supports the Druid Hills Charter Cluster and believes the future of DeKalb education probably will be in going the charter route.
I always look for inconsistencies in people’s behavior (votes). Mr. Irwin has a goose and gander problem with his thinking on Charters, at least in DeKalb. His child attends a charter school, but he may vote to keep your children from attending one. HMMMM! Is that an inconsistency?
He voted to support the $300,000 update to the Redan Baseball fields while maintaining that charter schools aren’t fair to the district as a whole. What? Has he looked at athletic fields across the county? I challenge him to run a mile on the Cross Keys High School track. So, what exactly is motivating his decisions and that of the majority of the board? The racial politics of DeKalb. There, I said it. I know it isn’t the politically correct thing to do but it is accurate and everyone knows it. I suggest we all quit pretending to ignore it.
One of the facts that too often is ignored is that only 10% of DeKalb’s students are white. The majority of white children in DeKalb no longer attend public school. They are in private school, home school or have moved entirely. The Druid Hills Charter Cluster is a majority minority cluster of schools. In the entire school district there are only a few schools that are majority white schools and they are all elementary schools. DeKalb has no majority white high schools.
Mr. LeBlanc is an unknown quantity. I enjoyed meeting him and hearing his perspectives. He is for charters and uses the Kipp school as a very valid confirmation of what can be potentially produced using the same demographics as DeKalb. Is he what we need? I don’t know, but I think he is worth taking a chance on. The Governors appointees have never excited me very much.
What will likely happen here? I believe Mr. Irwin will win simply because of demographics. Mr. LeBlanc has an issue here. The constituency has believed for years that someone white could not possibly have their best interest at heart.
I am really ambivalent here.
I believe we have two people that will not do a good job. One supports the Druid Hills Charter Cluster and the other does not. I usually do not like being a one issue voter. Jim McMahan has had real attendance problems and he is a stay at home dad. He is not engaged in a 40 hour a week job. He should not have attendance problems.
Karen Carter uses the same logic as Mr. Irwin. Her inconsistency on the Charter Cluster and the Redan baseball field are the same. Their explanations were identical. Whoever wins this race is a loss for the constituency. Mr. McMahan will almost universally vote however Mr. Orson does. It is clear who is leading here. The real difference here is that the constituency is advanced enough to not just vote race, I think.
Many Charter Cluster folks consider Thad Mayfield a yes vote for the charter. I am not so sure. In the 5-4 vote, Mr. Mayfield voted for the charter. But, watch the video. He was the last to cast his vote. He waited for everyone else to vote. He knew what the outcome was before he pressed his button. Voting for the charter cluster, while knowing that his vote would not be decisive, hardly gives us confidence about his motivations. Perhaps he was only trying to make the board look less racially divisive, while comfortable that the cluster would not prevail. I am not so sure that if he is the deciding vote next time you will get the same vote. I do like how he prepares himself for meetings. He is ready and up on his stuff. That is a great positive trait. The question is: Can he vote against the way his constituency views the Charter cluster? I think not.
Vicki Turner sounds like she is already in the community’s pocket on the charter cluster vote. Can Mr. Mayfield overcome this?
Districts 6 and 7
Districts 6 and 7 are not worth discussing. They will support the superintendent at all costs. He does not want the cluster. He wants the county to become a charter system. I predicted this long ago. This will not change DeKalb and its achievement issues at all , in my view.
District 1 and 2
Stan Jester will be the Lone Ranger on many issues. Marshall Orson will do what a good board member should do in some cases. In others he’ll vote in order to exchange a quid pro quo somewhere down the line on an issue important to him: like the charter cluster movement. The sad thing is that his expectations have gone unfulfilled as witnessed by the denial of the charter cluster. When will he realize that he is being played?
What about accreditation? It was never really in doubt. The whole issue was used to get rid of Walker and friends. SACS has to make it look like things are in doubt, but they are not. Accreditation will be restored soon. Unfortunately the appointed board will really have nothing to do with the outcome no matter what the spin. Never forget that accreditation has nothing to do with academic performance. Nothing the administration or this board have done have improved the poor academic results we get in DeKalb.
Good luck on your vote.