11/02/2015 – DATE Charter Approval

 11/02/2015 – Work/Business
eboard link icon Agenda Item – Approval of the DeKalb Academy of Technology & the Environment Charter School Renewal Petition

Trenton Arnold (Regional Superintendent, Region II, Division of School Leadership & Operational Support)

DeKalb Academy of Technology & the Environment Charter School, Inc. (DATE), submitted submitted a renewal petition to the DeKalb Board of Education and the DeKalb County School District to renew their charter contract to continue educating DeKalb County students.  DATE opened in 2005 and has renewed 3 times.  It’s gone to K-8 serving 750 students.  Expected enrollment in 2016 is 771.

DATE has maintained a waiting list in each grade.  Currently over 300 students.

It is requested that the Board of Education approve a charter for the DeKalb Academy of Technology & the Environment Charter School, Inc., subject to required changes to the submitted petition.

[00:02:06]

Vickie Turner (Dekalb Board of Education)

When the petition is reviewed by the team and various areas Need Improvement or Does Not Meet Requirements, is there accountability that makes sure they implement those things that?

Trenton Arnold

There is a review process and expectation those areas are addressed.  If not those areas are not substantiative enough to recommend denial.

[00:06:22]

Michael Erwin (Dekalb Board of Education)

It bothers me that there are areas that say Non Responsive.  It amazes me.

Trenton Arnold

It’s not uncommon.  There are various levels of understanding of what is asked of them.  That’s why we have multiple reviews.  We are reviewing our charter review process.

Michael Erwin

I understand what you’re saying.  For example, “Why do you want a charter?”.  That’s a fundamental question and it says non responsive.  We are entrusting them to educate our kids and they can’t answer the question.  It bothers me.

[00:08:18]

Stan Jester (Dekalb Board of Education)

What I would say to that is we are not forcing people to go this school.  Annually we review their financial viability and academic achievement.  If they were falling below in any of these things we could come back and look at why.  It might be because they don’t know why they want a charter.

Personally, I’m more concerned if they are financially viable.  Are there scores good?  The fact that there is a 300 person waiting list tells me those parents are paying attention and they want to go into those schools.  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.

Generically speaking, what are we doing to reduce the waiting list?  This school is providing a need that is needed around the county.  I would like to see the waiting list for all charter schools going down such that it reflects we are giving the services the parents need.

Dr. Stephen Green (DeKalb Superintendent)

I don’t think we’ve had that discussion at this point.

Stan Jester

One thing that could be done would be finding out why they are going to these schools and provide that somewhere else.  If it’s too specific, then perhaps we can find a way to multiply that school or somehow provide that service especially if they are achieving the academic success we want to see and they are financially viable.

Dr. Joyce Morley (Dekalb Board of Education)

That was a really, really good question.  I agree, why do we want somebody that can’t seem to answer a simple question.

Mr. Jester, I cringe when you said nobody is on a waiting list to get into McNair.  There is probably not.  If you’re not going to have equity and children are not treated the same way, they don’t have the same things, they’re not a Fernbank, would you be on a waiting list?

We know what needs to be done.  If we can take and treat all schools the same, make the buildings look the same, bring in the same people, give them the same equipment.  I remember when I went to Towers, you had the big screens for the computers.  They weren’t in any other schools.  When we can make the North and the South be equal, when we can offer the same thing, then there will be a waiting list.  There should be a waiting list for every school.  Every child should want to go to every school.  Every parent should want their child in every school.

Until we bring parity an see that all children are treated equally and with equality that we’ve been past the Brown vs Board of Education in Topeka which has never really taken place.  Then we’re not going to have waiting lists at schools.  And we know why people don’t take their kids to one school or another.  Because, if a school is seen as inferior or the word gets out, and they’re not given the same supplies and the same thing another school is given, then they’re going to want to go somewhere else.

I agree, charter shouldn’t make the difference.  If the school is not a charter school, the school still should be up to par.  Either invest now or pay dearly later.  All schools should be treated the same whether they’re charter or not.  There should be no more attention paid to one because it’s a charter and less paid to one because it’s not a charter.  Every child matters.  Until we see that and see it’s important, we’re going to have people to not want to take their children to a certain school.  They’re going to flee from one area and go to another.  I get that all the time because our parents believe that there are inferior schools.

So, it comes down to what are we doing to show them we are not going to have inferior schools.  If you’re living in the ghetto, and you’re not putting anymore into it, and you’re in Buckhead, there’s going to be a difference.  There’s a great difference.  We have to be aware of the fact that not enough attention has been paid to these areas.  It’s a slight when we talk about that school, nobody is over there.  What is that saying to the parents and to the children that are in those schools?

Every child is capable of learning and every child can learn nobody where they are, who they are, where their parents come from, what they have and don’t have.  We have to look at what is our perception of children and people who don’t look the same and live in the same areas.

Great question.  We need to start looking at and I agree with you, that we have to begin to say do we need a different process and the way we’re looking at these schools to make sure if they’re not up to par, if they’re not answer questions the way we need for them to do, or their explanation is not up to par, and is subpar.  Mediocrate should not be left to stand.  We should be exemplary in everything we do.  We should be excellent in everything we do, not perfect.

That’s something we can look at.  And again, we make mistakes but now the question is being raised by Dr. Erwin why don’t we see what we can do.  I’m not expecting something overnight, but at least recognize that all children are important, I don’t care where they come from and who they are.  And all parents are important to.

Dr. Green

I think it’s sufficed to say the charter school office is looking at the caliber of the applicants and petitioners coming in, but we’re also looking at the office itself.  Give us some time.  We’re not trying to do everything at once, but to your point, what we need to do internally to reexamine our process and raise the rigor.

Stan Jester

To Dr. Morley’s point, that’s the whole point of charters is to give us a signal of what’s working and what isn’t working.  If nobody can move to other schools, then we would have no idea of where our parents want to go and what they want to see.  But, if we allow them to move, then we say ‘hey, DATES got a waiting list.  They’re doing something.”  You’re absolutely right.  I would love to give these other schools that don’t have a waiting list, give them whatever it is they need.  Nothing would please me more than to have a charter school try and open up and nobody wants to go to it because our schools are so good.  That’s what I want to see.

Dr. Morley

As an African American, having went through black schools growing up and finally went to schools that were mixed.  We know what’s wrong.  We don’t need a charter school to tell us what’s wrong.  It’s been wrong for hundreds of years.  There’s nothing new.  We need to have another school and have them go somewhere else, take the kid out and put them over there.  If a kid is hungry at that house, what makes you think you need to go somewhere else to know he needs to eat.  That doesn’t make any sense.  We know what wrong in every school.  We know what’s wrong with education.  We need to stop playing games and coming up with these new fangled ideas ….

We got to stop experimenting. … We begin to look at certain groups of people that aren’t learning. … I’m glad I don’t have children in school … if you can fix it over there, fix it here.  Don’t move the children.  Fix it here.  Parents don’t have time for that either. …

Our children are suffering where they are.  They shouldn’t be bused. … Give the children what they need. … We need to put our money where our mouth is … out love our families to much.  It’s gone on too long …

2 + 2 doesn’t equal 4 when you have students not learning.  I’m not going to buy that.

Dr. Erwin

Mr. Jester, this is the second time you’ve made a comment about a school in my district.  That you feel they’re not up to par.  Testwise, some of them are not.  I’ve offered to you to come down to the Southern part of the district and tour our schools.  Have you done it.

Stan Jester

I have not

Dr. Erwin

But you continuously disrespect the principals, teachers and students of these regions.  I don’t don’t understand why you can’t get your point across without disrespecting these schools.  I wish you would work on that.

Stan Jester

So, are you happy with the level of achievement?

Dr. Erwin

I’m not happy with the level of achievement, but I’m also not happy with you disrespecting these schools.

Stan Jester

Something has got to change.

Dr. Erwin

We know what’s going on.  Dr. Morley just told you and we’re trying to work on this.  But do not disrespect the schools or these students, don’t label them.

Stan Jester

I’m not disrespecting them.  I’m saying there’s something we need to do and there’s something we need to change.

Dr. Erwin

Well find a better way to say it.

Stan Jester

The schools are failing.  I don’t know what else to tell you.

[00:19:53]

Marshall Orson (DeKalb Board of Education)

Our process for renewals seems like it’s built from the start up process.  In other districts there is a more expedited process for established charters.

If something is working we want it to continue.  The tension is that charters offer alternatives.  Once it’s been in place for a while it’s part of the fabric of the district.

Ultimately what we want in our schools is results.  I don’t think we need to make the same investments in every school.  Some schools need larger investments because of their challenges.  When we reduce our discuss to the same everywhere, we run a risk of mediocrate.

Poverty creates a barrier …

[00:23:11]

Dr. Green

I would add to that.  I remind you of last months presentation where there was a rollout of what we are going for our schools with the highest need.  We’re going to invest $400 million in our highest need children.

Equity is not equal, but is what is needed.  That is what we are going to deliver to the schools that need it the most.  Results is what’s going to determine the success or failure of this work.

Dr. Morley

Dr. Green, I appreciate the conversation about equity …

If we look at anything that happens and has ever happened around, I go back to Jim Jones, the first people he killed was the children.  Do we kill the children and let all else go free.  Once you kill the children you kill the dream, you kill the future.

I was a part of the busing and forced integration that never took place.  Still all these years later we’re still fighting for the same thing.

[00:26:35]

Vickie Turner

Us is them and they is us.  We are all one.  That’s what it should be.  I put a challenge out to McMahan, Orson and Jester.  Come over to activities on our side and I would love to come to activities on your side.  That would be one DeKalb.

We are all privy to statistics.  That’s how we talk about our children as if they are statistics and numbers.  But we have to make it personal, where we look at Johny’s face and we see chakeena, it has to become personal.  I put the challenge out now.  Come over and see what takes place with the children and see their faces.  See how they present the school.  Meet the parents like we did on the first day of school at Peachcrest Elementary.  We have to come out of the halls of government and come see the children.

We become all things to allllllll meeeeeen, women and children.  I believe they want to know that Mr. Jester, McMahan, Erwin, Morley, they are children.  They may have been birthed by someone else, but if we fail them we have failed our own.

Mr. Jester, I commend you for saying we want to find out what the charter schools are doing and I’d be more than happy to give them and get it to those schools.  I’m going to challenge you.  Give us your child.  Give us your child.  Give us your child.  As long as your child is privy to different kinds of education it removes you from what is going on over on the South side.

As I’ve said to Dr. Green, and to many, we have got to make sure it’s equitable across the board.  We’ve got to stop talking about it and just start doing it.  Us is them and they is us.  So, when we say something about McNair, when we say something about those schools it’s us.