- Recap By Cheryl Miller
Recap of Public Comments
By: Cheryl Miller
Here are my notes that I took as listening to the October 7 public comments portion of the DeKalb County School Board meeting. I apologize if I spelled anyone’s name incorrectly or did not capture the full essence of their three minute speech to the board.
As I said, these are just my personal notes that I thought I would share in case anyone is interested in keeping up with what is being said by the public before the school board meets on its regular business.
I was surprised that there appeared to be nothing new about the format or delivery of the public comments portion of the meeting as we have been hearing about this new “town hall” style of delivery that Superintendent Thurmond had suggested. All the speakers appeared to be speaking in a different order than what was on the agenda, so I apologize if I got any names wrong or listed them incorrectly.
1. Margaret Paynich – Says she is a new resident in Georgia and has moved to her “five year home.” When she has children, she will likely move out of DeKalb and find a better school system, no offense to superintendent Thurmond. She would consider staying in DeKalb if the Druid Hills Charter cluster is approved.
2. Deidre Pierce – Thanks to Dr. Karen Carter, Dr. Irwin and others at the McNair town hall meeting. She was a Five Star Region Five focus group attendee. She also attended the South DeKalb Parent Council meeting and read up on the Superintendent’s Bridge Initiative. BROAD Initiative recommended for grants for new educational programs. Asks for automatic door for the front of the school because the physically handicapped children struggle to open the current large, heavy door.
3. Carrie Staines – teacher, overwhelmed, underpaid, no joy left in her job. I saw the charter cluster as the answer to so many concerns I and other teachers have expressed. We teach children truth. You have trusted us to stand in front of these children. You can trust us to run this cluster and do what is right for these children. We are very excited to be a part of this change. We cannot do it alone. We need parents to work with us to make this a success. Energy will continue.
4. Melanie Darby – Druid Hills Charter Cluster parent, active PTA, school council, organizing member of the cluster. Thank you. All of you chose to serve.
5. Thomas Benefield – Fernbank elementary teacher, graduate of DeKalb schools (Lakeside), in support of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster, one size fits all does not work. The cluster will have a total of 5 elementary, 1 middle, 1 high school. It works. Unity – success. Appreciate you have a big decision to make, your time, consideration. It will be in best interest of all if you will grant the cluster.
6. Sandi Morris – board member of a coalition, local, state, federal improvements. Lithonia High School, children are breaking into homes, hanging out at the gas station, not being monitored. Stonecrest Elementary, Lithonia Middle – lack of resources, no response to my letters. Students could care less. Children are failing,schools not making AYP. Help improve quality of life in our area.
7. Veronica Watts – Here to speak on positives at MLK, Jr. High School. 125 parents on committee for engagement with parents. Opportunities for parents to find outwhat is going on in the school, what they can do to volunteer. Math Monday, Muffins for Mom, Donuts for Dad, Health Fair Oct. 25, please come out at support us from 8 a.m. – 1p.m.
8. Tom Keating – quote from Hamlet, “Lord we know what we are, but we know not what we will be.” The toilet guy (he calls himself). Losing patience. Do not know how to proceed. Need better toilet paper rolls, not the kind used in prisons. Need better conditions.
9. Teacher against the Druid Hills Cluster. I read the charter. Nothing original in it except that they want flexibility in hiring, firing, daily operations, but it is not explained in what way. Requested flexibility will not do anything different in terms of educating children than what they have now. What concerns me is that flexibility is actually a request for outsourcing. That will put the children’s needs at the whim of corporations and the corporations’ bottom line. The proposal brings nothing new. What is real reason? Flexibility? To exclude? Entitlement, elitism, or perhaps are children being used to advance a political agenda? They have the means to establish a private school if they wish to be so different than the rest of their community at large. But don’t let them divert tax dollars from the rest of the district that depends on public school to educate all the children.
10. David Schutten – (Teachers Association) Here to talk about some inequities in the staffing at our schools. Media services have been cut and not restored. They are vital and unique. Media Specialists are not currently assigned to schools based on population. Every school has just one assigned when many used to have multiple media specialists. Now they have to share one person across multiple schools. Next, is it the intention of the petitioners for Druid Hills Charter Cluster to close media centers? I see that they have eliminated the position in their proposals. Concerns about outsourcing the responsibility of educating our children. You can read about it in the paper nearly every day… Millions of dollars are misdirected across the country, corporations and a few individuals are enriching themselves at the expense of the scores of many. How will this petition affect the children in the rest of the county? There are many questions that need to be answered by those not necessarily living in those neighborhoods.
11. Debra Greenwood – ABLE Atlanta Building Leadership Enabled (not sure on acronym) – against Druid Hills Charter Cluster, efficacy unknown across the country, no proven advantages, in some places they get public money without the necessary oversight to ensure the kids will get a quality education. We are concerned they will siphon money away from other schools. Now is not the time to take on such a risky venture. We need to gain stability in this school system before we start trying these new ideas. We need to get the basics right first. I understand what they are saying. There is nothing wrong with what they want, but they are not the only ones who want something better for their children. We all do. You must ensure quality education for all schools in this district. Goals may be admirable. We want that for every student in the district.
12. Jennie McCorvey Fleming – Briarcliff High School reunion chair person. Formed a coalition to find out what we can do to get Briarcliff HIgh School back into the force of training and teaching children. School is in bad shape, harmed by vandals. I went to Kittridge, Briarcliff High School, DeKalb College when still owned by the county, worked for DeKalb, taught in DeKalb College, degree from it. Would like to see the school reopened as a school for career and academy. Good news that you have applied for a grant for a career program.I would like you to consider placing it at the building of the former Briarcliff High School. Good foundation, good location.
13. Timothy DeBardelaben – also part of the Briarcliff coalition. We were aghast at the condition of the school. Boarded up the windows and doors, mowed the lawns, but what they used to boardit up was not quality. Kids can break right through it. Need manhole cover where one is missing in the back. Turned down for a second tour. Manhole cover missing is a big safety issue. We haveoffered to have a volunteer work day. We could pick up the trash.
14. Mrs. Smith: Teacher in a charter school system. I hope you are open minded. Look at the good and the bad in making your decision. I saw in a blog that you were looking to tear down the Briarcliff High School.There is history that you may not know. It is a prime location. If you are looking to sell, then I hope you take into consideration the community’s feelings about that piece of property. I used to go to the Jim Cherry Center was centrally located and was used as a source to improve instruction. Please think about thecommunity and get their input before you decide to do anything.
15. Mrs. Kutchni – Laurel Ridge Mom, Louis is son in special education. He is included in the overwhelming majority of students who would be impacted if the cluster plans go ahead as written in the charter. There would be no other place for these children with disabilities. They want to accommodate those in their zone, but not the ones who do not live in their zone? What about the many special education children scheduled to transfer into these programs. I understand 41% of special education students would be dislocated. What happens when another band of parents rise up and do the same? Where will our children go?
16. Sandra Burdette – commend you on the job well done at McNair Elementary. Towers High School has everything running smoothly. Homecoming, band, cheerleaders. They had to turn people away. Regarding the charter school. I have been against them because we need to be fighting for all our schools. We need all schools to be as good as a charter school. All schools need to be great schools.
17. Mr. Farachon – Three former board members I have spoken with since they were removed. Surely, you must get a degree by a former slave master. Stop trying to integrate yourself into a dying system. The government has no jobs,food, shelter, clothing for us. We are making our former slave master’s children angry with us. We must be separated if we do not want to suffer great loss. We have lost our ability for farming. We control nothing. We have no economic security. We need to reveal that organic is not being used. We need economic survival. Come to Alabama to learn Oct. 28 to the 30 to learn more.