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?