Rewriting DeKalb Charter School Policies

Note (6/15/2015 @ 8pm): Policy IBB changes were just removed from the June 17 agenda.
In light of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition and the various other conversion charters up for renewal this year, the administration has rewritten DeKalb School’s charter policies.  The board will be discussing these policies at a called meeting Wednesday June 17.  Let me know your thoughts.
The autonomy of conversion charters was optional until June 2014 when the state released this memo saying,

Charter School Autonomy is No Longer Optional
Charter renewal applicants – including conversion charter school applicants – that are not granted full autonomy by their school districts will be recommended for denial.
Full autonomy means that the charter school’s Governing Board must have the final authority in personnel decisions, financial decisions, curriculum and instruction, resource allocation, establishing and monitoring the achievement of school improvement goals, and school operations.

Supporting Documents

Georgia Department of Education Rules

Related Links and Documents

31 responses to “Rewriting DeKalb Charter School Policies

  1. Paula Caldarella

    Stan, in reading over the proposed policy, this statement caught my eye:
    The Board shall not approve a charter petition unless the petition meets all legal requirements, and the Board deems the petition to be in the public interest.
    I’d like to see some clarity and specifics around “deems…to be in the public interest”.

  2. Stan Jester

    Hey Paula,
    Agreed. That is vague and could use some definition. A lot of board policy is just a pass through of state law. This is one of those cases. § 20-2-2064. Approval or denial of petition:
    (d) A local board shall approve a petition that complies with the rules, regulations, policies, and procedures promulgated in accordance with Code Section 20-2-2063 and the provisions of this title and is in the public interest.

  3. So what then happens to the Chamblee Charter? I know it was put on hold this past few months. How will the principal having received a promotion to the central office effect this process?

  4. Stan Jester

    As you know, at the March 2015 board meeting the Chamblee Charter High School charter was extended for a year. There was some discussion around the lack of clarification and guidance from the state and district. Unfortunately, the current district charter policy rewrite does not address most of those issues.
    The principal assignment should not affect this process. The charter renewal process is driven by the governance council.

  5. Not So Casual Observer

    1. The proposed IBB-R requires compliance with “District policies” throughout. How is this compatible with the “substantive autonomy” defined by the state? Examples include
    * Section VIIa Funding: “Funds earned by charter schools, including grant and federal funds, must be spent in conformity with all applicable federal and state laws, rules, and district policies.”
    – What policies other than IBB does the District have about charter school funding?
    – Who determines if District policies comply with the Georgia Charter Schools Act and SBOE rules?
    2. Section VIa Funding: “Funding for Locally Approved Charter Schools. Funding for a charter school’s instructional and administrative programs will comply with the Georgia Charter Schools Act, State Board Rules, and District policies.”
    This does not address conversion charter school funding. Since at least 3 DCSD conversion charter schools are preparing to submit proposals in two months, this is a KEY section, now and in the future. It is hard to understand why the BOE is being given a policy lacking this KEY section.
    3. Section VII(e)iii Governance Requirements/Capacity: “If contracting with an education management organization to operate all or parts of the proposed charter school, the charter petitioner, Founding Board, or Governing Board must demonstrate the ability to operate at arms’ length from this external organization. “
    I am fairly certain that this requirement is not in any OGCA/SBOE regulation but was created by DCSD. What is the purpose of this? Drew Charter School, the HIGHLY successful APS school, started with an EMO and I’m sure they weren’t at arms’ length from them. Why would you have an EMO if you didn’t work as a team? And whose arms – LeBron’s or mine?
    4. Section VIIf Assurances and Required Statements: “The District reserves the right to require its locally approved charter schools to sign updated Assurances and Required Statements as federal or state law or district policy changes, or as the District deems necessary. “
    This essentially gives the District carte blanche to make the charter school comply with changes or whims “as the District deems necessary.” What if these conflict with the charter contract (exists for each charter school and amendments must be agreed to by all signatories)?
    5. Section VIIh Annual Report and Periodic Monitoring: “Additionally, charter schools may be required to submit periodic monitoring reports in accordance with this policy and its corresponding guidance as required by the District Charter Office which reflect on its operations, implementation of its mission and vision, and progress towards meeting the academic and operational performance objectives and goals as required by its charter contract. “
    Surely there should be some limits here. Charter schools already submit more detailed reporting than other schools.
    6. Nowhere in the proposed IBB-R does DCSD agree that a denied petitioner has the option of mediation (of course the LEA must agree to it….).

  6. 1) APS has done some good work around board policies for charter schools. Take a look at APS Charter School Policies
    2) I STRONGLY encourage DeKalb County Schools to reach out to NACSA (National Association of Charter School Authorizers) for assistance. This is exactly what they could do help DeKalb craft meaningful policies around charter schools.

  7. Why is this a sudden issue? Is this policy a good or bad thing for charters? How many charters within DCSS are autonomous? How does this align with the whole system supposed to be going charter?

  8. Once again DeKalb is creating hurdles to charter approval that are inconsistent with state law. State law requires 60% approval by the combined vote of faculty, staff, and parents “at a public meeting called with two weeks’ notice” for a high school cluster conversion application to be filed. DeKalb, on the other hand, is requiring that a cluster applicant demonstrate votes (with what percentage approval?) at each school.
    Current state law already requires that a majority of the school councils in the cluster approve of the petition. DeKalb’s pseudo-requirement that there be a poorly-defined vote at each school in addition to school councils’ votes and the state-required combined vote of faculty, staff, and parents/guardians in the cluster is simply an escape hatch for board members and veteran staffers to maintain full financial and personnel control over schools.
    The Druid Hills applicant demonstrated unanimous approval by all seven school councils and 92% approval by the combined vote of faculty, staff, and parents/guardians at a public meeting called and widely advertised with more than two weeks’ notice and held at the high school, located on both MARTA and the free Emory Cliff routes, during hours that allowed both day-shift and night-shift workers to attend. That worked out well. DeKalb’s central office will always find a way to say ‘no’ to anything new or different, and especially anything that puts authority in the hands of principals and teachers.

  9. Paula Caldarella

    Stan, any clue as to why the policies were pulled from the agenda?

  10. Stan Jester

    Hey Paula,
    Yesterday evening the board received a message that this item was pulled from the agenda. No explanation was given.

  11. Not sure if you remember me…Nancy might. I used to be much more involved with following chartering and watched the development of Dekalb’s behavior from about 2003-2013–including a lot of comments on their policy.
    I haven’t watched this carefully, and regret not noticing the meeting yesterday, but there are 2 historic bullying tactics that remain in this version.
    1.) the “charter review committee” was historically used like the wizard of oz—secretive, hidden behind a curtain, and able to accuse or state opinions about the petitioners without any possibility of cross examination by either the petitioner or the board.
    2.) the requirement that the program be “unique” meant competence in execution or location did not matter–denial WOULD be recommended by staff per “policy” if any magnet or other program within the district did anything that was similar in any particular. And yet the requirement that it also be “proven” elsewhere also is stated. Furthermore, cooperative replication between a charter and the district then becomes grounds for a recommendation of non-renewal.

  12. Not So Casual Observer

    This review is based on the proposed versions of IBB and IBB-R as posted for the June 1, 2015 DCSD BOE Work Session. The following is a representative but not exhaustive list of topics from relevant SBOE charter rules (160-4-9-.04, 160-4-9-.05, and 160-4-9-.06) that are not addressed in the proposed IBB and IBB-R.
    The definition section of proposed policy regulation IBB –R omits these relevant definitions contained in SBOE Rule 160-4-9.-04. The DCSD BOE and the public should know how DCSD will address these clear responsibilities, which are not addressed in the proposed IBB or IBB-R.
    Public Interest – The term ‘public interest’ is a key term used in proposed policy IBB as the basis for petition approval and termination. Surely it should be defined. Why not use the definition in the SBOE rule?
    Substantial autonomy – The terms ‘autonomy’ and ‘substantial autonomy’ are not used at all in proposed policy IBB or IBB-R, yet this is a key concept in the SBOE charter rules.
    Substantially detrimental – This term is used in SBOE Guidelines for SBOE Rule 160-4-9-.06
    College and Career Academy – The DCSD BOE has approved the McNair College and Career Academy petition that is still in the review cycle. Will another DCSD policy and regulation be prepared to address this type of charter school? It is not addressed in IBB or IBB-R, although it is covered in SBOE charter rules.
    at arms length – The definition section of proposed policy regulation IBB-R uses the phrase ‘at arms’ length’ in section I(c) Capacity, but does not define the term. Definition of this non-standard term would be helpful to petitioners. This term is not included in relevant SBOE charter rules.
    Proposed policy regulation IBB-R omits these relevant sections contained in SBOE Rule 160-4-9.05:
    Section (1)(b) last sentence: If a local board denies a petitioner, the State Board of Education or the Charter Advisory Committee may mediate between the local board and the charter petitioner whose petition was denied in order to assist in resolving issues which led to the local board’s denial of the petition.
    DCSD BOE and the public should be made aware of the option of mediation as defined in SBOE rule. This topic is not addressed in the proposed IBB or IBB-R.
    The proposed policy IBB and IBB-R does not address the following requirements from the Guidelines for the Charter Schools Petition Process document, approved by GaDOE to accompany SBOE rule 160-4-9.06:
    x. Develop policies to provide for an expedited review process for high quality charter school renewal, expansion, and replication;

  13. Mr. Michael Thurmond, Superintendent.
    Can you confirm whether the McNair DeKalb College & Career Academy Charter School Petition was classified as a start up or a conversion? The petition says start-up, but other documents indicate it was a conversion.
    The petition says, “This school will be a local education authority start-up chartered high school and will be subject to the control and oversight of the DeKalb County School Board of Education.”
    The attached document classifies it as a conversion.
    Thank you,

  14. Michael Thurmond

    sent via email
    Mr. Jester,
    It appears that the chart you are reviewing from the state is outdated.
    The District was originally pursuing a grant for the McNair College and Career Academy which required the school to be recognized as a charter by the state. Since the grant is no longer an option, the District is not pursuing a charter designation at this time.
    Michael L. Thurmond

  15. If DCSD isn’t pursuing McNair College and Career Academy, then why is it included in the FY2015-16 budget??
    On page 46, $989,000 is budgeted for “Funds designated by Mr. Thurmond to support the implementation of the McNair College and Career Academy.”
    On page 411, $1,100,000 is budgeted for the Gateway to College charter school, which the DCSD BOE cancelled in March 2015.
    What is going on? What else is hidden in the budget????

  16. By the way, on the McNair issue, Mr. Thurmond called the chart Stan referenced “outdated.” However, the chart dated 6/10/15 used last week at the GaDOE District Flexibility and Charter Schools Committee meeting had the same status for McNair College and Career Academy. Perhaps someone at DCSD could follow up and have the chart updated.
    I also wonder why there wasn’t a press release to notify the public that there will be no McNair College and Career Academy.

  17. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I am reminded of a blog post by Nancy Jester 3 years ago,
    My Thoughts on the AdvancED SACS Report,
    By: Nancy Jester
    For almost two years, I have publicly inquired during the presentation of the monthly financial report about the discrepancies that I uncovered. My public statements at board meetings span two administrations. I have written that it appears to me that our budgets for the past six years were, at best, a weak suggestion of how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception.
    I was publicly misled by administration officials who stated at board meetings that our budgeting issues with electricity (one of the many areas I cited as problematic) were due to (1) unseasonably hot/cold summers/winters and (2) increases in electricity rates. These statements were demonstrably false.
    No agency, government department or official was interested in my findings. Eventually I posted them on my website (here’s the link to my September 13th entry: ). My public statements at Board meetings go back to almost the beginning of my service.
    Additionally, I discovered that “general administration salaries” have been the only salary category that has increased over six years; including the current budget. I inquired into this matter at two board meetings but did not receive a response. Here is the link t0 my analysis:
    While I’m flattered by AdvancED’s extensive use of my research and statements; their conclusions, required actions, indeed, their paradigm for “team governance” would prevent me or any other board member from discovering and properly alerting the public to these misdeeds (see required action #5).

  18. I noticed that in the current DCSD petition guidelines for charter schools DCSD states:
    “There is no District appeals process for the Board’s denial of a petition.” (page 5) Petitioners can revise their petition and resubmit it, but there is no provision for the petitioner, the Board, and/or the District to discuss issues in a “work session” format. Communication is limited and rigid, not helpful to a petitioner who is willing to adjust but needs clarification.
    I would like for the Board to discuss creating an appeals process for charter school petitions that are denied. It seems like that was a BIG part of the anger over how the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition was handled.
    The Board told DHCC that the answer was “no,” and the Administration told DHCC that since the Board said “no” there was nothing they could do. The DHCC petitioners, and citizens outside the Druid Hills cluster, felt like the District and the Board just dismissed them as troublemakers.
    Charter School petitioners and the Board and the District shouldn’t be adversaries. All 3 parties want what’s best for students. Policy on charter schools shouldn’t be modeled on criminal justice proceedings or procurement law but on a process that assumes that parties are working with an open mind and with honesty toward a similar goal.
    Seems to be that the DCSD policy on Charter Schools should address this proactively, rather than waiting for the next contentious situation. The current proposal for IBB doesn’t address this, nor does it mention the mediation that is mentioned as an option in SBOE charter school rules.

  19. Mediation for denied petitioners
    The proposed charter school policy omits any mediation for denied petitioners. However, SBOE Rule 160-4-9.05, Section (1)(b) last sentence says: If a local board denies a petitioner, the State Board of Education or the Charter Advisory Committee may mediate between the local board and the charter petitioner whose petition was denied in order to assist in resolving issues which led to the local board’s denial of the petition.

  20. Stan Jester

    Gateway to College Charter
    Dr. Bell notified us at the 06/17/2015 meeting (with notes, video, links, etc…), Final Adoption of the FY2016, Budget that the Gateway charter would be defunded and that money would be used to expand the 4-3-2 Plan.
    That expansion was a bit sketchy. None of the documents actually reflected the details of the expansion.

  21. Michael Thurmond

     06/17/2015 Budget Discussion (Video time – 1:00:27)
    We are going forward with McNair College and Career Academy. As a matter of fact, and I saw an email about that earlier today, there is some confusion about that. Dr. Thompson has posted a position for the Dean of the College and Career Academy. We’re moving forward, we’ve met with business leaders two weeks ago, we have a strategy in place.
    There’s confusion, but there shouldn’t be. This plan is on track and moving forward.

  22. Paula Caldarella

    Mr. Thurmond, I may be in the minority, but I am pleased to hear the McNair College and Career Academy is going forward, though I do not see the position posted on PATS. If I supported the Druid Hills Charter Cluster because I believed it was time for DCSS to “step out of the box” with forward thinking ideas for our children’s education I must support the McNair effort. I am disappointed that you and the BOE did not support the DH Charter Cluster. I felt (and continue to feel) this type of innovation could go a long way to restoring DCSS’ reputation. If the Charter Cluster worked, DCSS would have been lauded, probably nationally, for its forward thinking approach to education. If the cluster failed, it would simply return to the oversight of DCSS.
    I also appreciate your continued participation in the discussions on Stan’s blog.

  23. I would like to know if McNair College and Career Academy will be implemented in accordance with the BOE approved proposal. If not, what is the role of the BOE in approving changes to that proposal?
    I agree with innovation and forward thinking, but just as the Druid Hills Charter Cluster community was questioned in detail about their proposed innovations, I think that any new type of school should also be scrutinized. I want it to be effective, not merely different.
    How will the McNair College and Career Academy be funded? There is $989,000 in the ‘Books (other than textbooks) and other Periodicals’ line item under Department of Career Education that states “Funds designated by Mr. Thurmond to support the implementation of the McNair College and Career Academy.” This is over 60% of the Department of Career Education funds. Wow. Is that just start-up money?

  24. It has recently been brought to my attention that the McNair College and Career Academy and Gateway to College charter school will not happen next year. However, it appears based on the documents I found on the district website that funds are still in the budget for these in excess of $2 million. Is this the case? If this is so, how can the budget be approved as is?

  25. Michael Thurmond

    sent via email (June 22, 2015)
    The McNair College & Career Academy is scheduled to implement phase 1 plan FY16. CEO/Academy Dean has been submitted for hire. This position leader will lead the implementation plan as soon as he/she is hired in conjunction with approval of the FY16 budget.
    Gateway to College will terminate its charter contract on June 30, 2015. The FY16 was changed to reflect the end of its contract.

  26. Stan Jester

    sent via email (June 22, 2015)
    Mr. Thurmond.
    Given the DCSD FY2016 Approved Budget Detail [ ], where is the budget listed for the McNair College & Career Academy? Where is the line item for the CEO/Academy Dean?
    Do you have any details on this new McNair College & Career Academy? The board passed what was characterized as a “grant petition”. See video and transcript []
    Mr. Thurmond, your words were “this [charter] will be revisited on more than one occasion because there has to be a budget developed and administrative oversight and all of that must occur. But, first and foremost we have to see if we can receive the grant”.
    Thank you for shedding any light on what the McNair College & Career Academy is and how it will be funded,

  27. Michael Thurmond

    sent via email (June 22, 2015)
    Mr. Jester,
    See responses below.
    Where is the budget listed for the McNair College & Career Academy?
    Department of Career Education 745 (page 46 of the approved budget)
    Code: 1000 642 X 101 38 62 00 000101 745 3011
    Where is the line item for the CEO/Academy Dean?
    There is no line item for this position. All funding is in the charge code above.
    Do you have any details on this new McNair College & Career Academy?
    I have attached a copy of the FY16 Implementation plan.
    Michael L. Thurmond

  28. sent via email (June 23, 2015)
    Mr. Jester,
    My additional concern is that the funding for the “Dean” of this academy has been allocated via a “books” account. The detailed FY16 budget, page 46 has $989,000 budgeted for “Books (other than textbooks) and Periodicals” code: 1000 642 X 101 38 62 00 000101 745 3011.
    The descriptor of this account states:
    “Funds designated by Mr. Thurmond to support the implementation of the McNair College and Career Academy.”
    After reading the “Implementation Plan” as delivered by Mr. Thurmond, there was an estimated budget of $402,500. What is the additional $586,500 unused funding for?
    This is the type of budget analysis that is needed within our district. The board of education needs to better understand where our education dollars are being spent and the outcomes (ROI) of those expenditures.
    I would also like to see the reconciliation of the $1,000,000 allocated to the same McNair College and Career Academy from this year’s (FY15) budget.
    All my best,

  29. sent via email (June 23, 2015)
    The additional $586K will probably include, but will not be limited to, the “New Staff” section described in the McNair College and Career Academy implementation plan but not included in the “Estimted Budget” section.
    New Staff
    * Dean of the College and Career Academy (1) (12-month contract)
    * Career-Related Instructional Coordinator (1) (12-month contract)
    * Career Counselor (1) (12-month contract)
    * Career Technical and Agricultural Education Instructors(2)
    * Reading Specialist (1)

  30. Realize that the only way that DCSD gets funding is based on the number of students, and particular needs of those students (gifted, ELL, disability, etc.)
    The fact that $1,000,000 is going for the McNair College and Career Academy probably means that students from other schools who earned that $1,000,000 will not ever benefit from that $1,000,000.
    Now I think the McNair College and Career Academy might be a good thing. But a 5 page implementation plan for spending nearly $1,000,000, and the lack of transparency on the trade-offs considered in the decision to throw nearly $1,000,000 to this school, are astonishing.

  31. Stan Jester

    DCSD is funded from Local, State and Federal sources:
    Local – Property taxes, beverage taxes
    State – QBE Funds (19 Individual QBE Programs)
    Federal – Title I, RT3, etc …
    State QBE funding is earned by the service provided the student and not the category the student falls into. If a gifted student isn’t taught by a gifted certified teacher, the district does not receive the extra gifted funds.
    State QBE funding is almost half of the General Operating Budget revenue