The great news is that people in Dunwoody are deeply engaged in the issues affecting quality public education in our community. Dunwoody Talk, one of many local blogs, engaged in a discussion about the pros and cons of the charter cluster option, one of several considered in the community.
Knowledge is power. And getting up to date information about the various initiatives keeps us all in the loop. Here’s what DunwoodyParents.org had to say in response to posted questions and concerns (read the entire response by clicking the link below):
We are pursuing multiple avenues for Dunwoody educational independence. These are not separate groups with competing agendas. And, rather than sabotage each other, these two initiatives are actually complementary. Let us explain why.
Getting the legislature and the voters of Georgia to give us the opportunity to form our own school system is a long process with a very uncertain outcome. Our state reps have told us that this is a huge mountain to climb and that we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in this basket. That said, we are fully committed to pushing forward with this as the ultimate goal.
It is worth noting that in the hearing on Representative Taylor’s constitutional amendment that took place in the House subcommittee on Education on March 20, one of the skeptical members of the House asked us why we hadn’t pursued a Charter Cluster designation and pointed out that state law already provided a mechanism for granting autonomy. Our chances of success in the House improve if we can point to attempts to avail ourselves of the avenues that already exist.
Those of us working on the Charter Cluster concept are agreed that the governance model must include a structure that has the Cluster non-profit corporation as the employer of the teachers and principals. We will not be satisfied with, or push for approval of, a Charter Cluster contract that does not give us true educational autonomy. We must have (as you put it) a checkbook. The Cluster needs to be able to hire educators, reward great ones, and remove lousy ones. The DeKalb teachers in Dunwoody will have a tough decision about whether or not to leave the County’s employment and accept jobs with the Cluster. We expect the good ones to welcome the change, which will be empowering and rewarding.
We don’t know if we can get five members of the new DeKalb Board of Education to give us this autonomy, but that is what we will ask for. If they say ‘no’, then we have an answer for the skeptics in the Legislature.
We need to make three other points. First, the community discussion and work that would be required to submit a petition to the County for a Charter Cluster is the exact same effort we would have to undertake to start our own school system. Getting community-wide work groups together to define what—and how—to teach in an autonomous Dunwoody must be done regardless of whether or not we are asking the County for a Charter Cluster or the Legislature and the State Board of Ed for an independent system. Everything we put into a Charter Petition is reusable when we get our own system.
Second, our current efforts to submit a Letter of Intent are entirely non-binding. We are not committing the community to anything, only trying to secure an opportunity for us to decide whether or not to pursue a Charter Cluster Petition. We will only go down the petition path if there is strong community support, but to get to that point, we need a Letter of Intent.
Allegra Johnson (President)
Robert Wittenstein (Steering Committee Representative)
What recent research reveals about expected financial savings when small districts merge
“First, consolidated school districts usually make use of larger schools, which implies that average transportation distance must increase. As a result, consolidation might increase a district’s transportation spending per pupil.
Second, consolidating districts may level up salaries and benefits to those of the most generous participating district, thereby raising personnel costs.
Third, administrators and teachers may have a more positive attitude toward work in smaller schools, which tend to have more flexible rules and procedures.
Finally, students may be more motivated and parents may find it more comfortable to interact with teachers in smaller districts, which tend to have a greater community feel. These reactions and closer student-faculty relationships may result in higher student performance at any given spending level.”
A group led by Pam Tallmadge and Jim Redovian is exploring the Charter Cluster model as a possible local control option for Dunwoody area public schools. The first step of the exploration is a non-binding Letter of Intent to be filed with the State and County Boards of Education.
The Letter of Intent proclaims that the community will consider, research, and petition for Charter School Cluster status during the next year. To that end, working committees will form to address all the considerations of a locally controlled cluster. The Letter of Intent is not specific to the structure and goals of a charter cluster, merely a proclamation that the community wishes to consider this avenue.
- Georgia Department of Education: Click here.
- Code Section Code Section 20-2-2064 of the Official Code of Georgia: Click here.
- Guidelines for Charter School Petitions, DeKalb County: Click here.