Friday, April 5, 2013

Dunwoody Area Charter Cluster Information

In response to DunwoodyTalk blog posts earlier this week, the DPCQE group has submitted the following response:


As two of the team members of Dunwoody Parents Concerned about Quality Education, the group that formed last month to spearhead alternatives to the current status quo, we’d like to respond to your points below.  We suspect our activities are a bit misunderstood and we want to be completely transparent in our efforts.

Before we talk about our efforts, please know that we agree with your first point about SACS.  The dysfunction in DeKalb occurs at all levels, is long-standing, and won’t be addressed when SACS waves their magic wand and takes DeKalb off probation (just before the legislative session, as you point out).  Nor will it be solved by the new temporary Superintendent or the new temporary board members.  The solutions to the dysfunction will be realized locally in Dunwoody, not from the Central Office Palace. 

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.    

Finally, you talk about a local group having a sharpie ready to re-draw attendance lines.  This is an attempt at creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).  No one today is working on trying to re-draw attendance lines but when it is necessary; don’t we WANT that done locally rather than by the bureaucrat in the central office?  Whether we have a Charter Cluster or an independent school system, any future redistricting ought to be done by the Dunwoody community.  This is the same argument we used to justify a local Dunwoody city government.  Don’t we want the ability to control our own destiny?  

Allegra Johnson
Robert Wittenstein


Anonymous said...

I like the response from these two people. I am also thankful that this blog brought the issue up for discussion. I learned more here in 15 minutes than I did at a meeting with one of the presenters.

Anonymous said...

Wow, first time EVER I agreed with this blogger. I hate to type that, but I digress. Why did it take a biased blogger to get this detailed information to the public? Advice to the group(s): Put all your cards on the table so no one thinks you have one hidden under the table.

Allegra Johnson said...

What's hidden? It's on the website under News.
Any leads on various options to improve our education are always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Allegra, thank you for sending this letter and thank you blogger for posting it. I agree, there has been more shared with this posting than elsewhere.

DPCQE needs to understand that there is a growing concern around Dunwoody about this process. Parents from every school have issues with the way your group has been formed and how you are keeping others out. There should be a current representive from each school's council working with you and reporting back to each school. Anything less is not acceptable. Someone who has no current ties to the school should not be able to appoint themselves, nor should your group, to represent the current children and parents.

It would also help if you vetted the people who you send out to represent you, and ultimately us. They should be able to answer questions better and should never answer questions as poorly as they have. Old school personal opinions have nothing to do with what we need to do with our schools.

DPCQE is asking for total trust from all of us with little transparency, few answers and no real direction shared with us.

And one last thing. Although we do prefer decisions, like redistricting, made closer to home, we also remember how divisive our own people have made these issues. Some of those people are working with your group right now. People who championed acedemy idea are on your team. Many parents question the involvement of anyone who sold that to the children of Dunwoody.

Anonymous said...

There's a Facebook page, website, and open-to-the-public meetings. Everyone is welcome, everyone has a say, and every homeowner, parent, business person, and taxpayer has a stake in the results. There are no "cards," no "insiders," no hidden agenda.

Comment on Facebook and the website, email us ... comments and concerns add to the knowledge base.