08/23/2013 – Friends Of Nancy


US Rep Jack Kingston

Would love to hear from as many of you as possible.
Chair Health/Education – Labor, Health and Human Services Bill
$600 billion. From Obamacare to education including the early start into pre-k. Asked Secretary Duncan, how do you come up with your numbers? He replied we’re really not sure how many schools participate.
Head Start
Head Start is run by health and human services department, not the department of education. According to a study by the Health and Human Services Department, 5 years down the road there’s not a discernible difference between a head start participant and somebody who did not participate in Head Start.
I know Head Start is emotional. Asked Secretary Duncan, if that study is accurate, is it wise to spend $75 billion on a new early start program? Or, would it better to let the states make that call? I think those types of decisions should be left to the states.
Local Control
The less interference we have with the teacher in the classroom, by the state or federal, that’s going to give us a better product. That’s one of the great things about charter schools. They have regained the grip on local autonomy. It makes the difference in math and reading scores.

Kelly Cadman

Nancy Jester:
Kelly is probably the smartest woman about charter applications in the state. She worked with the Druid Hills folks to develop their application. Kelly is Vice President of Georgia Charter Schools Association. They care about what I care about, kids and tax payers.
Kelly Cadman:
Druid Hills Charter Cluster
5 elementary schools, a middle school and high school all working in tandem. When the Druid Hills founding group pitched the idea, we were agog. We were excited to see this group wanted to manage their budget, personnel and instruction. They believe in reform from those areas.
They had 6 work groups and over a hundred people working and meeting every week. I’ve worked with a lot of groups but have never seen this much community involvement and commitment. Their goal is a K-12 pathway so the parents will have choices. The elementary schools have IB, STEM and Montessori options.
The petition has been submitted and the school board has 90 days to respond. I’m certain there will be some negotiating. We hope they will allow the cluster to manage personnel at the cluster level. They do not want to split from the county. They fully intend to comply with all accountability measurements.
Nancy Jester:
Recently we had the charter amendment pass. That solidified an appeals process to the state, but the Druid Hills Charter Cluster does not qualify. Independent, autonomous charters qualify, but conversions do not.
Kelly Cadman:
Correct. The buck stops at the county and our fingers are crossed.
Stan Jester:
The school administration has already drawn lines in the sand they are not going to recommend approval. What’s the plan to battle this in the court of public opinion?
Kelly Cadman:
I think we are going to cross that bridge when we come to it. The parents spoke at the vote.
Nancy Jester:
The Druid Hills Charter Cluster will go back and forth with the county to attempt to reach and agreement. A decision must be made within 90 days. Any other updates from Georgia Charter Schools Association about statewide what’s going on with charters.
Kelly Cadman:
Obviously, the more urban areas are the highest need because achievement is so terrible. We have focus wherever there is demand, wherever parents have needs we will be there.
Nancy Jester:
A project I’m working on is Next Generation Board. Who is going to be our next generation of board members? Are we identifying all the types of people we need, CPAs and lawyers? I’m developing a board bank to match needs with the communities that need them.

Fran Millar

Druid Hills Cluster & Independent Schools
If the Druid Hills Cluster doesn’t happen, everything is going to depend on Tom Taylor’s independent school district bill. Druid Hills was well organized and spent thousands of hours putting this together. That charter vote by the people was a mandate.
You can’t prevent everything. The school should be commended for how that was handled.
I’ve been meeting with lawyers and we are looking at a property tax reform package. Appraisals are going up as much 20%. We need a series of reforms. For example, they are supposed to give you the comps when they appraise your home. If you go to an appeals hearing they can bring in different comps.
Common Core
Let’s call everything going on a political sock. The state is not going to back down from Common Core. We were already 80% – 90% aligned with Common Core. All the smart educators I talk to Southern Regional Education Board, DOE, Brad Bryant, they all say this is an improvement in standards. We all want national standards. Everything is going to be tied to Common Core.

Michael O’Sullivan

Nancy Jester:
Michael O’Sullivan is with Students First Georgia. They care about the things I care about, kids and taxpayers. Parent Trigger came up last legislative session and I would love to see that pass.
Michael O’Sullivan
Students First is an education non profit that seeks to reform education. We believe in three things. We believe in elevating the teaching profession. We believe in empowering parents. And we believe in spending taxpayer money wisely and effectively.
We lobby legislative reps to that end. For example, we were instrumental in changing the LIFO policy of teachers. Getting rid of the policy that said, no matter how effective you were, the last teacher in was the first teacher out. This past year we supported the charter amendment. We were also supportive of the teacher evaluation bill to ensure that teachers were evaluated on things that mattered. Not just test scores, but student growth. Under the old system, 98% of teachers were rated satisfactory. If you are saying that’s fine then you’re also saying there’s no difference between the top 1% and that 98%. We fixed that and it passed almost unanimously.
Parent Trigger
We are also big supporters of parent trigger legislation. Parent trigger or teachers can come together and say we, as a collective group, want to change the system. There are many different ways to do that. You can convert to charters, fire teachers or principals. It passed the house but sat in the Senate where it languished. It became a political football and was not about the students. Legislators didn’t get the message from the parents that they want options. It will still be under consideration in the 2014 session.
Nancy Jester:
Michael is bringing together the themes of local autonomous control, parent control, parent power, these are the things important to education reform in Georgia. There are no better advocates for children than the parents. I trust a parent more than a bureaucrat to spend money.
Passionate parents were missing from capital during the parent trigger debate. They will not vote for your interests unless you speak up. The parent trigger bill got watered down and then not passed. You need to make your voice heard.
The next legislative session starts in January and is 40 days. It is important that you communicate in every channel possible.
Michael O’Sullivan
It’s amazing how few people actually communicate with their elected official. Tom, what’s effective?
Tom Taylor
Calls are effective. Visits are effective. Form emails get caught in the spam filter and are just redundant. In various committee hearings, everybody is paid by some interest to be there.
Nancy Jester
They are the alphabet soup of lobbyists.
Tom Taylor
You won’t see 2 people representing parents and students.
Nancy Jester
And those interests get defended. They hear from the Superintendents and the school boards association. Our voices were not heard and parent trigger didn’t get passed. Had it passed, Druid Hills would have an easier road to go down to get that charter.

Rich Thompson

Nancy Jester:
I was wondering what was going to happen when my oldest child goes to kindergarten. I started peeling back the layers and became very angry with what I found. I started contacting people and getting involved. I went to a committee meeting and ran into Rich. He was a dad that was as mad as I was. We testified before a senate education committee together and we’ve been close friends ever since and partners in reforming education in Georgia. Rich really activates the dads in the community.
Rich Thompson:
Nancy is firecracker for education reform in Georgia. Three things need to happen in Georgia in order for our kids to be successful. One, they need to have more academic rigor. Second, we need to hold school boards and all elected officials fiscally accountable. Third, and foremost we need to preserve local control.
Local Control
Local control is out of whack in Georgia. To me, local control is moms and dads making decisions at the dinner table.
Academic Rigor
I tend to disagree that common core may be the best option for us. As a governing board member we have had to make adjustment to our curriculum to come in line with common core and we ratcheted things down and not up. While it may bring some schools up, it doesn’t bring the high performing schools up. I advocate to not focus on closing the gap but focus on raising the bar.
Nancy Jester
“Not closing the gap but raising the bar” … I love that. We will now steal that. I always say “when you’re focusing on the gap, you’re missing the problem.” We can close the gap such that the bar is lowered for everybody. Or, we can raise the bar for everybody and not concern ourselves with the gap. There are real issues with the gap, but if you raise the bar for all children we will be better off.
Common Core
I share your concern about common core. I am concerned it’s brought to us by the same people that brought us adequate yearly progress. Do we want our children to be ‘adequate’? That’s not what I want for our children. I want them to be, like I say for my children … Jesterrific.

Melvin Everson

Nancy Jester:
We are not filling the gaps in the workforce and Melvin can tell us what we are doing about that at the state level. What do we want for our children at the end of their educational lives? We want an entry point for our children into a robust middle class life so they can take care of their families and enjoy the life that we’ve enjoyed. They can go on to give it to their children and so on.
That doesn’t mean everybody has to have a 4 year degree. It may be technical training. There’s a Superintendent I met, and I’m not a big fan of Superintendents as you know, that I really like. The Hall County Superintendent said, “Nancy, there’s a lot of academic arrogance. Everybody doesn’t need this four year degree. Everybody doesn’t need to get a degree in philosophy and sit on their mamma’s sofa.” He’s doing some amazing things that I’m currently writing about. He’s connecting, as Melvin well knows, with what’s going on with the work place. What’s the entry ramp into a successful middle class life and how does that connect with education?
I’m thrilled that Melvin is here and he’s thinking about these issues in Georgia and making them happen.
Melvin Everson:
In the words of Elizabeth Taylor to her 7 husbands, “I won’t keep you long.”
We have to think outside the box when it comes to education. We have silo-ed our students here to go into one direction. Title one students all going to vo-tech. I’ve been to every technical college across the state. We need real education reform. I firmly believe education will be the civil rights issue of the 21st century. This nation used to be number one in education. We’ve slipped to 11.
I went to Denver and spoke to the Vice President of Boeing from South Carolina. He shared with us that in 2010 all the universities in this country, we graduated more students with a Sports Medicine degree than we did engineers. Jobs follow research, development and design. We have high school graduations every May and June signaling they have met all the criteria set forth for them by the state board of education. A large percentage of them spend their first semester in college in remedial courses.
We are not preparing these students for college. Dunwoody and Sand Springs are doing fine. Many other counties are not doing as well. Many students just don’t see the relevance to the rigor of the classroom. What am I saying? Everybody isn’t going to UGA or Ga Tech. We must expose them to other career options. The average student coming out of a technical school makes more than the average student coming out of UGA with a B.S. degree. Tech students have 95% placement.
These students want to know what else is out there. What else can I do with my hands? That’s why these career academies are popping up all over. We should only be concerned about 2 things in education. When a person finishes with their education, either they will become an entrepreneur, start their own business and put people to work. Or, they are going to work for someone else.
For too long we have separated the academians and the entrepreneurs/business leaders. We have to merge that synergy. The Vice President of Northrop can’t find engineers in Georgia for $65K. Georgia Power is expanding their plant, but they can’t find local welders. The carpet industry in Dalton said they will need four thousand maintenance technicians within 2 years because our work force will be retiring. We can pay them $45K to $55K annually. We don’t have enough radiology technicians.
If we don’t have the workforce, companies are going to locate themselves in some other state. I’m tired of being 48th out of 50 in education. I’m for private school, public school, charter school, home school … whatever it takes to educate these children.
12 for life
The CEO of Southwire in Carrolton county went to the board of education and told them they have a problem. We want to help you. If you give us your most at risk students, we will take $10 Million of our own money and educate them. We are going to give them a job for 4 hours a day, assign them tutors, assign them mentors to assure they graduate. They originally projected 117 graduates their first year, but they ended up with 417 graduates. The students said the difference was being able to apply in the real world what they learned in the classroom. Their are other options to them other than the correctional system.
There is nothing that got my attention more than a face to face conversation or a phone call. We need you to tell your representatives what you think.
Finland Phenomena
They are different in many ways, but they have some best practices we can do. Number 1, all of their teachers must have a masters degree. Number 2, 80% of their teachers that start off as a teacher, retire as a teacher. In America, we lose 50% after 5 years. Why? Regulations, their hands are tired. We need to educate these children and not protect the system.
We keep doing the same thing and keep getting the same results. Someone once said, “That’s insanity”. Something has to change.
Nancy Jester
Melvin used the word ‘Relevance’. It’s is part of the entry ramp to the middle class life style. The Hall County Superintendent talked about that. How do we make education relevant? I asked him what gets in your way? What’s stopping you from making education relevant and what do you do about it? We had a long conversation about how the state gets in the way. Certainly the federal government gets in the way that make things very difficult to unstick this in the box situation we have. Makes it difficult for Kelly to start charters. We are always fighting the system to show relevance.
Nobody knows more about this than you. You understand it and you can make the difference by contacting your reps.

Tom Taylor

State Representative Tom Taylor
I want to reiterate a couple things Melvin said. I’m on the economic development committee. We were down at Gulfstream in Savannah, a premiere aircraft manufacturer. They have a 7 year backlog of orders. The entry level aircraft is $65 million. They employee a lot of people but not a lot of people from Georgia. We asked Gulfstream what we can do to help you, they said educate the children. They can’t find the employees they need in Georgia.
Kia, down in LeGrange. We have a great program in Georgia called Quickstart. It trains industrial workers and selects them for companies. You would not believe the number of employees from Kia that live in Alabama. They can not find enough qualified people from Georgia to work there.
Statewide Effect
I was a co sponsor of SB 79 which allowed the Governor to remove Atlanta board members. I got a whole of push back from people outside the Atlanta metro area. They wanted to know why bills like that matter to them. If you’re from outside of Georgia, Atlanta is Georgia.
HR 486
I dropped HR 486, state constitutional amendment, last session. It was pretty well received. You have a lot of career entrenched educrats. The last thing they care about is students. I was disappointed, when the Governor removed the DeKalb Schools board, out of 23 members of the DeKalb Delegation, only 6 of us stood with him and supported that. Which means the other folks were satisfied with the status quo, which was failing. That’s unacceptable.
I’m swinging for the fences with HR 486. In 1983, the constitution was amended to not allow any more school systems. I don’t think they contemplated school systems this size. 1 in 10 students in Georgia is in a Gwinnett County school, 168,000 kids. Dunwoody is doing well, but the system is failing. It affects property values and companies are reluctant to locate here.
There are some counties with school systems with less than 500 students K – 12. What HR 486 does is allow cities that have been incorporated recently to form either stand alone city school or a combo cluster city school that can cross county lines. There is a lot of support from the power players in metro Atlanta. It’s a high bar. A constitutional amendment requires 120 votes in the house and 2/3 majority in the senate. We have those votes in the senate and we are only a vote shy in the house.
My theory is, if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em. In many counties, the largest employer in town is the school system and they loath to shake things up. Have 200 people from Dunwoody in the hearings is a lot different than 1 or 2 people from Dunwoody and a bunch of lobbyists. Moms standing up demanding for change is a powerful thing.