Charters Vs Failing Schools in DeKalb

Stan Jester
Board Of Education
District 1

On Monday, the school board passed the DATE charter renewal petition, but not before an interesting conversation and perspective on charters and failing schools in DeKalb.
McNair Elementary has failed children for a generation, had the lowest elementary CCRPI scores in the district in 2014 and is at the top of the Opportunity School District List.  Many parents zoned to McNair choose to send their child to the DeKalb Academy of Technology & Environment (DATE) charter school located in Stone Mountain and whose scores are an improvement over many of the other choices.
During the DATE charter board discussion,  I pointed out that charters like DATE with long waiting lists (300+ students) are indicators of things going well in DeKalb.  The waiting list is a market signal to that they are doing something right.  Demand for this school is higher than what they can handle.  People are choosing this environment for their child.  The school district should figure out what DATE is doing to attract parents to choose this school.  That would help DeKalb build a road map to improve academic achievement at poorly performing schools.
Marlon Walker is the AJC reporter that covers DeKalb Schools and wrote the following article about the ensuing board discussion.
Questions of racial bias surface at DeKalb school board meeting

By: Marlon A. Walker – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A school’s charter renewal prompted discussion by DeKalb County school board members on racial bias in the district …
The discussion began as the board considered the DeKalb Academy of Technology and the Environment’s application for charter renewal. Michael Erwin, who represents District 3, said it bothered him that applicants sometimes could not answer simple questions including why a charter was being sought.
“Personally, I’m more concerned about whether they’re more financially viable,” said board member Stan Jester, who represents District 1. “Are their [test] scores good? And I think the fact that there’s a 300-person waiting list tells me those parents are paying attention and they want to go into those schools. I mean, what’s the waiting list to get into McNair Elementary? It’s not 300 kids. The parents know where they want to send their kids.”

“If you’re not going to have equity and children are not treated the same and they’re not a Fernbank or somewhere else, would you be on a waiting list?” Morley said. “And we know what needs to be done. If you treat all the schools the same, make the buildings look the same, bring in the same people, give them the same kind of equipment … ”
Continue Reading at the AJC Online Here >>

10 responses to “Charters Vs Failing Schools in DeKalb

  1. I agree with Joyce. Although with a bit different perspective. The district is now a majority black with an overwhelmingly majority black leadership – and yet, nothing has changed for the black students who come from low-income areas. Wealthier, more well-connected black families have knowledge of and unfettered access to any school they choose – and they exercise this access freely. So, it’s a power, social and economic issue, not a race issue. That is, until you start discussing the Hispanic populations in DeKalb schools. These families are ignored by black leaders and consequently have the most severe over-crowding as well as the fewest materials, oldest supplies and little support staff. That, appears to be the new race issue in DeKalb.

  2. Cere, Thank you for your comments. I agree with most of it as it relates to the immigrant communities. Outside of that paradigm, I believe those are common misconceptions. It is difficult to discuss your assertions without specific examples of what you are talking about.
    I would point out that no one has unfettered access to any public school. DeKalb has schools of choice and the high performing ones, like DATE, have long waiting lists. If the families capable of leaving McNair are doing so in favor of DATE, then we should figure out what DATE is doing and implement it at McNair.

  3. It is the same old argument. The North side has more “stuff” than the south side. Give me more and it will be better. We all know that throwing more money at things in education is seldom a viable answer. Mr. Erwin and Dr. Morley get the chip off your shoulder an admit endemic failing in many schools. Charters are at least a chance at changing the dynamic. Complaining and shouting disrespect is not a solution it is an excuse..

  4. Guess Ms. Morley hasn’t visited Cary Reynolds, Dresden, or Pleasantdale or she would know the north end of DeKalb has schools in desperate need just as the southern part. These schools are predominately Spanish and other nationalities….the forgotten group of students!

  5. Adrienne Duncan

    IMHO, the “racists” in the article are Erwin and Morley. They can’t see past their bias against a Caucasian man on the school board to address problems with schools that serve poorer communities.

  6. Redan, in Morley’s district, is the only school to have 1-to-1 IT devices and the only school to have lighted baseball fields. I would love to see some data to back up her accusations.
    She obviously has an agenda which is beyond the accusations she made.

  7. It was a surreal conversation. I said we need to figure out what it is that these schools need and give it to them. Dr. Morley and Ms. Turner kept saying we know what we need, parity and equity. All the successful schools are different and all the failing schools are different, so I still don’t know what it is the failing schools need to achieve parity and equity.

  8. I am cross-posting my response here and in response to the AJC article.
    I have some basic concerns with this dialogue.When I first read it, I was on my phone and out of town, so now I am home and on my PC. I don’t think there was logic in any aspect of this discussion.
    1. The problems in South DeKalb schools existed before any charter schools opened.
    2. If, as implied, there is a difference in funding allocations between north and south DeKalb, who would be responsible? I would think that is the responsibility of the school district and the BOE. If they are aware, as implied by this conversation, what are they doing about it? I don’t see any valid basis on which to blame charter schools.
    3. Charter schools in DeKalb have not received a penny of SPLOST dollars, so how is that a related point of discussion?
    4. Charter’s receive LESS resources than the county public schools – for starters, they have to find and pay for and repair their own facilities, and they receive minimal dollars for transportation.
    5. Per a comment on the AJC trail from a single mom (April Mae) – to make Charter’s a truly viable option for everyone who would like to choose them, we need to address the transportation gap.
    I believe the issues brought up at the meeting are two distinct issues that are related primarily in that they represent opportunities and/or lack thereof for our children:
    1) Charter schools are allowed by state law. The review of a school for its charter renewal should be based on the laws and rules of the state and county and the best interest of the children being served by the charter school.
    2) Discrepancies in schools across the county (not just north/south, as clarified above – the whole cross keys cluster in north DeKalb also has challenges) is a separate but important topic to address

  9. Funding Schools
    Any inequities, inequalities or discrepancies in funding schools (generally speaking as it pertains to the general fund and not SPLOST) would be seen in this 2015-2016 detailed budget of all Dekalb schools. Dr. Kaveous K. Preston is DeKalb Schools’ Director of Allotments Scheduling & Budgets and I discuss in this post, “How The District Funds The School House“.
    Obviously we can’t transport every child to their school of choice. What we can do is look at successful charter schools like DATE which is 98% minority and figure out what they are doing to be so successful. We can implement those solutions at failing schools where we do provide transportation for students.

  10. I agree with Stan Jester. We need to find out what DATE is doing right, and try to incorporate that in other schools in all areas of DeKalb County… and even beyond. I was a parent of two DATE students, and transportation to/from charters schools is an issue. I drove them back and forth to that school for 7 years. We live in 30345 , so it was a bit of a drive, but it was absolutely worth it. Yes the waiting list is long, and I find that that is a shame, as I want all children to have good quality education wherever they live and whatever school they are to attend. Unfortunately, this is not the reality, but I hope this changes.