DeKalb Board – OSD – Minority Report

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

Last month the DeKalb Board of Education passed a resolution to oppose the governor’s Opportunity School District (OSD). The resolution was not unanimous, this is my minority report.
The OSD referendum hinges on the answer to two questions:
1. Does the state have any responsibility for the performance of local school districts?
2. If the state does not abdicate all responsibility to local school districts, then what is the alternative to OSD?
Schools in DeKalb have been failing in perpetuity. As of the latest financial report, DeKalb Schools has an operating surplus of almost $400 million. For the OSD-eligible schools, we are:
·  Giving stipends and signing bonuses to attract and retain talented, motivated teachers
·  Appropriating $1.9 million for literacy and mathematics initiatives
·  Spending $750K for the 10 Horizon schools to partner with Discovery Education
·  Spending $398K to partner with IIRP(International Institute for Restorative Practices) to reduce the number of suspensions
If we can’t improve the academic achievement of our failing schools with local control and almost $400 million operating surplus, our schools need to be taken over.

13 responses to “DeKalb Board – OSD – Minority Report

  1. Jules Winnfield

    This ought to be an easy decision for voters. The local school districts have already proven they can’t get the job done. It is a little ironic that the Republican Governor wants to take control away from the local level and the county officials (mostly Democrats in the failing districts) don’t want to give it up. I suspect the county officials are more concerned about their own job security and self interest than what is actually best for the students.

  2. Agreed. And we can rest assured that those opposing it do not have children in a failing school.

  3. Melissa Dillon

    I share the frustration with continued failure that you express. My concern, though, is that if taken over by State control, what then guarantees a turn around. In other words, what is the State proposing to do that DeKalb hasn’t done or tried? And if the State has better ideas, why isn’t DeKalb trying them already? Is it politics and pork barrel, and will that truly be eliminated with State control or will the politics and pork barrel just favor a different group?

  4. Melissa, Good questions.
    I don’t believe we should throw up our arms and say we’re doing everything that can be done. Gainsville (78% F/R Lunch) and Valdosta (76% F/R Lunch) spend less per student than DeKalb (70% F/R Lunch) , have higher “Free or Reduced Lunch” numbers and get better results on their standardized tests. So, something can be done.
    DeKalb Schools’ superintendent has a track record of improving academic achievement for failing schools. I will support and fund his initiatives, but what if that doesn’t work? What about the other school districts across the state that can’t figure it out? At some point the state has to step in and say this body doesn’t have the capacity to improve academic achievement for its failing schools.
    I also find it hypocritical that school districts don’t have any problems closing down a charter school that isn’t financially or academically viable. But, then turns around and decries local control and we’re doing everything that can be done when the state looks at them for the exact same offenses.

  5. I am voting against OSD, mainly because I believe the state should do more to improve the lives of children outside the classroom first – things like reducing the rate of child poverty/hunger and violence against children and helping families lift themselves out of poverty and get out of bad situations. These are things that, if we could make headway with as a society, would improve the lives of students out of the classroom so they can achieve more in the classroom.

  6. In my opinion, to call what we have now “local control” is a false statement. What we have is a gigantic County school system that has way too many problems to solve at once. If we really want to do something, we need to truly give local communities (at a minimum those who want it) control over their schools. There is a reason that City of Decatur schools are #1 in the state! Trying to manage 100,000 students is too cumbersome. Give us true local control at the city level and you’ll see some successful schools!

  7. Don McChesney

    Good points Stan. I normally would be against the OSD, but in the case of DeKalb Co. continuing business as usual adds up to insanity. As a DeKalb resident looking at our school system only I think we have no other choice. I do believe however, that it will fail in a statewide vote.

  8. It is a very complex issue. Many times it seems that no one wants to admit that education must be a partnership between the school and the home. I agree with GT. The lives of our students must also be improved. The other issue that I have is that DeKalb contiues to lose many very good educators. Even though there have been raises, there is still no answer as to why are we losing veteran educators to other districts. Money is not the only reason that people leave. Most of the high school principals that were hired in DeKalb were hired from outside of the school system. I am sure that they are all capable people and deserve their jobs.
    Last month two teachers at our school resigned to go to other districts. They both got promotions in these other districts. Both of these teachers had applied for promotions in DeKalb. This summer we lost another one of our great teachers. This was a special eduction teacher. She got a promotion in another district.
    I know that in the BOE meetings there is always a discussion of why people are leaving. I never had heard an actual answer.
    I am not trying to get off of the subject of this posting, For our schools to improve, we need strong educators in the classroom and we need strong principals. There are some excellent princiapls. But there are some that really need training and support. Last year we were told that people from AIC were going to visit schools to really see what is happening. Our school was never visited. Our principal is a very nice man. But instruction is the last thing on his mind.
    Also, will the OSD just be a way for Friends and Families to get lucrative contracts.?
    I do not mean to rant or sound negative. I just think that the OSD will be the same song just played by other people.

  9. I was at the hearing. What I heard was not the way I would want my tax dollars used. I believe only 2 people spoke up for OSD and at least 20 spoke against it.
    The woman from NOLA was a joke; she was a former state senator from LA who spoke more about how thrilled she was to visit Atlanta than about how the OSD improved NOLA schools. The two young people giving the pitch for OSD could have been selling time shares.
    It also seems that the one young woman went over as a contractor to APS to coach them on how to get their schools off the OSD. This is totally absurd. When I hear someone pushing this, I assume they must have a $ interest motivating them. We need to bring in the programs–working with families–that do make a different. The OSD is a bad deal.

  10. Does the state have any responsibility for the academic and financial performance of schools and school districts?

  11. The state’s role should be coordinating Federal and County programs and monies but should leave all local control to each county or school district. Our state is too diverse to assume that the state can do a better job than those on the ground. Our state constitution dictates the role of counties and cities in the responsibilities of their school districts. It needs to stay that was.
    That is why it has to be an amendment because it will change the state constitution. I am sure that people do not understand this and all the hype to vote yes has come with very little facts. It is a lot easier for us to keep an eye on our school boards that it is to watch some obscure organization hidden under layers of state government and private entities.

  12. DJ, we have been “keeping an eye on our school board” for years. We have not been able to make them focus on academic achievement. Check out the BOE agendas and see how many times student achievement is discussed. The only thing the BOE can do is vote up or down the superintendent’s recommendations. They can’t make him bring recommendations and they can’t meddle in the day to day operations. We have more failing schools than a year ago. What are your recommendations for effecting change? Dr. Green says he’s using bonuses and raises to hire more teachers for those failing schools but a quick look at the positions posted on DCSD shows many failing schools still have teacher openings this far into the school year. What is DeKalb doing differently to improve achievement? How many years should we wait for them to figure it out? At some point, trying something new may be the best option, even if it isn’t a great option.

  13. AB , This is not to be disrespectful of your opinion. But, what great things has our current state government done for education? Can you please highlight some? When the state decided to remove the members of the DeKalb BOE, they did not take into consideration that there were people like Nancy Jester, trying hard to do the right thing. She was also removed.
    Look at the current concerns about KSU. Was there no one who had a back ground and training in education that could be the president of that university? When a decision was made to change the test that educators needed to take for certification, GA went with a test that was not used in other states. We rolled out the TKES before the problems with it were corrected. Yes there are schools in every district that need help. It is a complex problem.
    The current administration has not fought for teacher retirement, teacher medical insurance or teacher pay raises. Then the state says, “Oh we cannot get teachers.” I wonder why?
    This is the organization that is suppose to “fix our schools”. Start by respecting the educators and parents.