Charter Cluster Proposal – Executive Summary
Large urban schools systems find it difficult to push accountability down to the school house level where real change is most effective. Size, bureaucracy, and inertia make it difficult for large schools systems to react quickly and to tailor solutions to the needs of specific communities where performance gaps and improvement opportunities differ dramatically.
Individual conversion charter schools have frequently failed to yield the level of independence and accountability needed to significantly improve the quality of education delivered to students. This is partially due to the isolated role each school plays in the Pre-K to 12 educational experience and partially due to the historic control exercised by many school systems and the central offices over the staff of individual conversion charter schools.
Create Partnerships between the local board of education and community based nonprofit to build educational subsystems around a high school cluster (a single high school and all the middle schools and elementary schools that feed into that high school.) Empower the principals of those schools to effect change and organize those principals to work as a team and be accountable to the local community.
The focus of the cluster will be academic achievement and the establishment of high standards for students and faculty. As part of the charter negotiated with the school system, the cluster will establish rigorous benchmarks that include audits of progress and achievement. The cluster will develop and maintain the curricula for grades Pre K-12 used throughout the cluster and will ensure compliance with state guidelines. The cluster will also establish the schedule and determine the books/instructional material used in the cluster. The Board of Education and the county central office will be responsible to monitor the cluster, which will operate under a contract (charter) with the school system, to ensure that educational benchmarks are met.
Dunwoody proposes a five year pilot program with the goal of creating a model that can be used as an innovation laboratory and replicated elsewhere in DeKalb County and in other Georgia school systems.
Support the creation of a Charter Cluster as a 501(c)3 non-profit, non-sectarian, organization whose focus is academic achievement at the community level.
The organizational charter of this private not-for-profit organization will specify both a Board of Trustees with legal and fiduciary responsibility and a Cluster Governing Council. The Board of Trustees will be the responsible party who contracts with the school system on the cluster charter.
A Cluster Governing Council will develop policies that will govern common standards across all the schools in the cluster and provide policy direction to the headmaster and cluster staff.
The Charter Cluster will operate with funds provided on a per-student basis from the state, and on a per student/per-facility basis from the county at current levels or at lesser levels of funding as negotiated between the cluster and the school system in the charter.
Additional funds can be directed as raised by the non-profit 501c(3) either though fundraising efforts in the community or through grants.
School support services such as food service, transportation, facility maintenance and safety will continue to be provided by the county.
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenues and allocations are not impacted by the Charter Cluster and are allocated as currently prescribed.
Unspent funds are retained by the non-profit charter cluster. School land and buildings and all physical assets (books, computers, etc.) remain the property of the school system. Once purchased by the cluster, physical assets become the property of the county school system for exclusive use of the cluster.
Charter Clusters remain public schools and must provide services to all local students, including programs appropriate for special needs students. Transfers in and transfers out would be allowed in accordance with the charter between the cluster and the local board of education.
Open Meetings/Open Records
While the cluster governance board is a private, non-profit entity, it is also a community organization spending taxpayer money. As a consequence, it will operate with the same open records and open meetings requirements mandated by the state for governmental organizations.