Let’s first look at some possible inconsistencies or possible danger points in trying to get the charter approved by the DeKalb Board.
- This charter wants virtually total autonomy in every decision making area. I understand why, it is just a possible stumbling block for the BOE.
- I am not sure exactly what they are doing with the school calendar. I cannot tell whether they just want to make changes in the daily schedule ( different from that of the DCSD) or whether they want to possibly change the days they meet apart from the rest of the school system. This can be a pro or con depending on the lens you are looking through.
- I find it inconsistent that they talk about child obesity while asking to reduce a state PE requirement. This may be minor to some folks but more important to others.
- I looked at their AP offerings. A major glaring weakness is they did not list AP US History. That is usually a cornerstone for any high school in any county that I have observed. It is certainly something that should be added to make their program more comprehensive. Why would they leave out AP US History?
- Some of their academic goals may be unobtainable across the entire cluster. I like that they set the bar very high instead of low. This is good, but often charters get giddy about what they can produce and cause themselves problems at charter renewal time.
- They get in to trying to deal with pre-k. That is admirable but it is beyond the scope of their responsibility. That responsibility is k-12. Pre-k is administered through an entirely different state agency.
- Transportation . I believe they are looking for total choice in attendance in the k-5 schools. They want the children to go to any school that the parents think give them a leg up. The problem here is transportation. It appears they are looking at several alternatives for providing transportation that may include the Cliff, DCSD, and other alternatives not enumerated. I believe they are asking the DeKalb Board to give them total control over all transportation money, including the state supplement, to move the students where they want. Transportation is a big thing for any start up. In this case I believe that it would be best for all choice schools of any type to have the parents provide the transportation. Choice is Choice not a transportation responsibility.
- I think there may be some serious questions about how the cluster board chooses its successors. I did not see enough detail here to see if there are any potential trouble spots. Will operating funds come from outside the cluster? If you do you might have some people wanting a voice. Is this a reasonable argument? Some will say it is and some will say it is not.
- It wants total autonomy from HR. I sympathize but, again, the DeKalb BOE may have difficulty with this one.
There is already some criticism coming from the South part of the county calling the cluster an enclave. I am sure pressure is already being applied to some BOE members to vote this down. The south side of the county usually sees these things as an attempt to secede from the school system or start a new system.
The way they did the voting for the charter is the weakest link. I read how one lady got four votes. One for herself as a teacher in the cluster and three for her children. I also saw a taxpayer who lived in the cluster, with no children, demand a vote. She was not allowed to vote but noted that her taxes would be used to support the cluster. One could say that she has a vote because she helped to elect the BOE, except that right now, six of them were appointed not elected. Oh well, so much for local control.
The AJC played up the lack of African-American votes. I believe this point will be the achilles heel of this movement. Unfortunately, the faction that controls the administration and the majority of the board will use the disparity in the racial make-up of the voters as a wedge to deny the petition. This will be especially ironic because the charter cluster would benefit a cluster that serves a majority of black students.
I believe the charter is for the most part very well written. It sets the bar high in multiple areas. I have already listed some potential trouble spots. If I were voting on this charter I would vote to approve. The DCSD has a track record of poor results that has lasted for too many years. There is no doubt in my mind that the charter people will provide a potentially better education for their children than DCSD. I have been a traditionalist in education, but now it is time to admit that the way we are dispensing public education no longer works and we need to seriously investigate alternatives before we have nothing left to build a society and culture on for the future.
This will be a tough vote for the BOE. I hope they will approve the cluster, but I think they may be a few votes short. Good luck Druid Hills Charter Cluster. I hope you make it. The children will be the winners.