04/01/2015 – Inspiration By Nancy Jester

04/01/2015 Work/Business

Video and Transcript

Melvin Johnson (Chair – School Board)

We are pleased and privileged to have our inspiration and pledge by our board member, Mr. Stan Jester.

Stan Jester (School Board)

Recently I was told, I am responsible for the inspiration at this board meeting.  I knew who I needed to call, that would be Tony Robbins.  Unfortunately, Tony Robbins couldn’t make it, so I decided to call on the one person who I know is the biggest advocate for children and tax payers across this county and across this state.  That’s Commissioner Nancy Jester.  She’ll be giving us the inspiration today.

Nancy Jester (DeKalb County Commissioner)

Thank you so much. It’s really my pleasure to be here.  It’s great to be among friends and folks that are working hard on education every day.  I know first hand what you do isn’t easy and I commend you all for the work that you do.  Alia, I really love that you want to have a high paying job in corporate america.  Stick with that, that’s my advice to you.  That was inspiring to me to hear that.  Thanks for being with us.

I had the privilege this weekend to officiate the Ivy Prep Charter School lottery.  That was a wonderful experience.  It drove home how much that parents want choices.  And, those choices mean different things for different people.  Sometimes it’s just a different environment, sometimes it’s the teachers there, the size of the school, the fact they have uniforms.  But, parents want choices and they’re voting with their feet in large numbers.

On average, across the state, about 300 kids are waiting lists at every charter school.  12,000 in the state are on waiting lists.  I would encourage DeKalb County and all counties to look at ways to make those waiting lists smaller so parents can have the opportunity to be in charge of their child’s educational destiny.

While I’m talking about education, I wanted to talk about how it is linked very closely with economic development.  I come before you as a Commissioner.  This is one of the big focuses, obviously, of county government, making sure that we can have thriving communities.  That folks are invested in our communities.  That creates the resources and opportunities for our schools and for our citizens and our children.

I think that city hood and annexation movements and all the dissatisfaction that we’ve heard, they’re signals to us.  We ignore them at our peril.  They are signals that people want something different and they are voting with their feet to get that.  I don’t think that pressure is likely to abate.  So, I think we need to address the problems head on.

One of the things I wanted to say, I know we heard in the news recently about the Governor’s Opportunity School District where lower performing schools can be put into the Opportunity School District and be reconstituted under new management.  Of course DeKalb had a large number of schools that could potentially qualify for this Opportunity District.

I’ve heard officials talk about we’re making progress and that should count.  It is right to note that we have made some progress and I commend you and the leaders and teachers in the schools.  But, it’s also important to talk about relative progress.  Because, as somebody that really enjoys looking at the data, we know there is a trend toward progress.  So, we have to disaggregate what is the noise of progress, what is the flow of progress from what is really achievement increasing.

So, let’s look at DeKalb and the 2014 CCRPI, the new index for achievement and progress in our schools.  When we look at that and break it down and look at the metro counties around us and the city schools around us, Decatur, Marietta and so forth … In our elementary schools, DeKalb County remains dead last.  We’re at the bottom of the CCRPI.  We also have the lowest progress there.  We’re dead last and we’re improving but at a slower rate than other people.  So, that leaves us in a worse relative position.

Middle Schools, we’re also in last place.  In High School, we are third from the bottom, but clustered very close to the bottom with APS and Clayton.  So, I think it’s important to note the relativity there.  We have to be making progress faster in order to be competitive.  This is one of the most important things that is affecting economic development in our county.

Some of you may recall that recently the Georgia Commissioner for Economic Development said that outside the perimeter area, DeKalb is getting very very very few looks at economic development.  And, of course, education is critical for that.

So, my prayer is that you’re inspired today to look closely at that.  To really align how you’re spending resources with the productive … [interrupted by Board Chair, Melvin Johnson]

Dr. Johnson

Ms. Jester … Mrs. Jester … We appreciate your remarks and comments.

Commissioner Jester

I’m almost done.  So, I think you should allow me to continue …

Dr. Johnson

We need to move on …

Commissioner Jester

What I would like to say to you is …

Dr. Johnson

Let us all stand for the pledge …

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