Thursday, March 23, 2017

Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools
Tuesday, March 28 @ 6:30 pm , Sequoyah Middle School
Panel Discussion/Q&A Session on Construction Advisory Committees

On Tuesday, March 28th, the first meeting of the new Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools (PGCS) will take place at Sequoyah Middle School. Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Dunwoody (I’ll refer to as BCDD)  parents and community members,  I hope you have your calendars marked and plan to attend.  

A few personal thoughts are below.  I apologize for the “all over the place” nature of my thoughts – they were all “jumbling” through my brain last night – in no particular sequence. 

I no longer have children in DCSD, but I plan to support this new council group. I do believe “it takes a village”, especially when the discussion centers on advocacy for children. I feel confident in my belief that most within BCDD feel this way as well.  

This is my 3rd year outside of the parental “sphere” looking into our BCDD school communities. What I see warms my heart and makes me feel confident for the future of our children.  I see parents, community members and elected officials support (not just financially) the administration, teachers and students of their respective schools and of other schools in and out of their own school cluster. 

If you do not hear it enough, let me say this – you all are awesome and do not let anyone tell you otherwise!!!

As a parent I regularly attended the Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council (DCPC) meetings. I found the topics informative and the discussions insightful and pertinent to the topic of the meetings. The Superintendent at that time would attend and address the group at least once each school year. I met many people within the Dunwoody cluster that I otherwise would have never known. I also met some great Chamblee cluster stakeholders. I cannot say enough positive words about this group.  I am not sure of the reason for its demise, but now there is a new advocacy group forming, Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools. Please, please support this new Council. With your support you can make this council a strong and meaningful advocate for all decisions that affect our children’s education. Lift each other up!!!

Now, we have a Board of Education member whose goal, it seems, is to tear down – tear down parents, community members, Mayors, school officials and even student achievement. This is unconscionable behavior from a school board member. I am confident the voters will remedy this situation the next school board election. However, now, I would ask that you drown out his “noise” and rebuff his attempts to divide the Dunwoody school cluster.  

BCDD stakeholders - support the Peachtree Gateway Council on Schools.  Do what you are phenomenal at – support and advocate for our school children.  

In closing, remember it is ok to disagree! I have always believed that the best ideas, solutions and compromises come from conversations around disagreements.  However, those conversations must be respectful and mature. I try to remember in my own daily life (not always with success), the words of a very wise Episcopal minister: 

“…In order to have a true conversation, you must open to the possibility you could be wrong”. 

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dunwoody High Boys Basketball Team Members Honored for 4 of 5 Highest GPA's Among DeKalb County Schools!!

Congratulations to Turner Nims, Matt Eitel, Jeff Powell and Chris Johnson.  These Dunwoody High basketball players were recently honored at the DeKalb County Tip-Off Club's end of year banquet for their accomplishments in the classroom.  These young men had 4 of the 5 top GPA's among all of DeKalb County High School basketball teams!!
 
(players pictured with Dunwoody High basketball coach Kevin Dankosky).
 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Guest Post: "A Case for Redistricting"

**Bumping this post back to the top as I believe it is as appropriate now as it was in 2015***

By Kirk Lunde..This is a follow up to my previous post proposing a System of Charter Clusters.  Most of what is written below are the ideas and suggestions of others who have shared them with me. One person who needs to be thanked is Marshall Orson.


DeKalb County Schools new Superintendent, Dr. Green, has a Bambinelli’s sized serving of spaghetti on his “plate” and working through it is going to create a legacy he will take with him into retirement. I believe he is the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

The district needs to make a decision regarding which flexibility option it will use going forward. There is also a school capacity crisis in the Cross Keys cluster which needs to be addressed. Additionally, the district is preparing an eSPLOST  project list for the BOE to vote on in May or June. If approved, citizens will vote on it next November. eSPLOST is the mechanism DCSD uses to pay for capital programs. The district has dubbed the preparation of the project list Building S.P.A.C.E.S.

In my perfect world, DCSD would take a map of the county and start over. Just change almost everything. The BOE districts are set by the legislature, so leave them in place and build from there. Currently, there are seven BOE districts and five regions. Align them. Make seven regions, each with one, or two, regional superintendents. This will reduce the span of control and provide more support to the principals.

All right, now we have seven regions and a System of Charter Clusters. Before we get any farther along, we need to address the capacity crisis in the Cross Keys cluster. DeKalb teacher and blogger, Rebekah Cohen Morris, wrote a great post about how to address this. She has the right idea. However, the plan she proposes does not take into account the other schools in DeKalb which are also overcrowded. These should be addressed at the same time. To speak plainly: attendance lines need to be changed district-wide.

Yes. I mean the whole county needs to be redistricted. Yes. I remember what happened the last time that was attempted. Yes. I was part of the crowds who wanted to Save Our Schools.

However, this time can be different. This time there is competent leadership in the district. This time, the BOE won’t be looking to line the pockets of their friends and family. This time, a plan can be based on accurate information, not political favors.

Hopefully, this time the DCSD can communicate effectively and control the conversation regarding redistricting. This can be done by recording any committee meetings and posting them on the district’s website. This will allow stakeholders to see the process used to devise a plan and eliminate the appearance of things being decided in secrecy. Every time there is a public meeting, it should be recorded to capture the comments, questions, and ideas. These should also be posted to the district’s website. I believe a constant stream of information before a plan is announced will reduce the resistance to any plan that is put forward. Additionally, some of the documented public input should be included in any proposed redistricting plan. Then, the stakeholders should be given an opportunity to look over any proposed plan before their feedback is sought. The district’s strategy of hiding things before asking for feedback needs to forgotten. At that time, questions need to be answered, not ignored. Again, these meetings should be recorded and made available on the district’s website.

Will there be resistance? Of course there will. DeKalb citizens love their local schools. However, the interests of all the children in DeKalb County would be best served by improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the district.

Currently, less than 65% of the district budget is spent on instruction. A more efficient school district would be able to increase that percentage. A more cost-effective district would make a larger pot of money available from which to draw the instruction percentage out of. Students would benefit in two ways. A more cost-effective school district could spend more on classroom instruction and have more money for other things such as counselors, STEM programs, music programs, and Career Technical & Ag. Education (CTAE).

The district should then present a set of guidelines, or goals, for redistricting. If a school’s request to change the proposed plan doesn’t meet the guidelines, or advance the district goals, the school will need to rethink their their request.

One of the strategic goals the district should work towards is becoming significantly more efficient and cost-effective. Decisions can not be political, they must benefit all of the students in the county by contributing to that goal.

The best way to create efficiency and improve cost-effectiveness is to even the load among clusters. It isn’t equitable that some schools are at less than 75% capacity while others are more than 125% capacity. Redrawing attendance lines can create capacity equity among schools and reduce transportation costs. Another benefit of redistricting would be to reduce the illegal racial segregation found in the Cross Keys cluster. Everyone can agree the district doesn’t need another law suit and if the Cross Keys cluster is not changed, there may be one.

Another goal of the district should be to eliminate trailers without resorting to inflated class sizes.  Rule 160-5-4-.16 (a) 2 states, A plan to replace all temporary educational facilities with permanent educational facilities must be included in the LEA’s local facilities plan. It is to be understood that all needs in a local facilities plan usually cannot be met within the five year life cycle of that plan and that temporary educational facilities may remain at a facility past the expiration of the current local facilities plan.”  The current Local Facilities Plan does not contain a plan to replace any of the trailers. It will take longer than one eSPLOST to achieve this goal, but when you consider DCSD is spending approximately $2 million a year on trailers, this is a goal the district should work towards. That is $2 million a year that can be spent on instruction.

The last time redistricting was seriously discussed, Ramona Tyson was the superintendent. She, and the BOE, were not willing to do what would benefit all the students, or all of the schools. The most vocal (read politically connected) opponents were able to get the proposal altered to meet their demands. There were also changes made because the proposed plan was based on inaccurate information. These things can be avoided by starting with an accurate assessment of the capacities and needs of each school. That is what the Building S.P.A.C.E.S. initiative is supposed to be creating.

My vision of DCSD is one where the resources of the DCSD are used to meet the needs of the students, not satisfy the whims of the administrators and BOE members. These needs vary throughout the county, but are fairly consistent within each cluster. The Cross Keys cluster needs more schools; the McNair cluster needs more curriculum support. I agree with Dr. Green that equity means everyone getting what they need. A system of charter clusters will allow DCSD to work with each cluster to meet its needs.

**We all are aware of the overcrowding issues in the Cross Keys cluster.  Let's compare that to the McNair cluster, which as Kirk indicated needs a lot of support.  The McNair cluster has 2,329 available seats.

McNair HS Cluster Clifton ES ** Flat Shoals ES ** Kelley Lake ES Meadowview           ES ** McNair ES** McNair MS McNair HS Subgroup Total
Hispanic 24 6 8 6 21 26 16 107
American Indian 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 5
Asian 0 0 0 2 0 2 2 6
Black 326 605 354 298 837 635 761 3,816
Pacific Islander 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 3
White 10 2 1 4 12 8 7 44
2 or more Races 5 2 6 5 5 1 6 30
Total School Enrollment 365 617 369 316 875 674 795
Total Cluster Enrollment 4,011
2014 Capacity 702 632 484 477 997 1,524 1,524
Capacity (+/-) 337 15 115 161 122 850 729 2,329

 
 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

We Can Wait a While for Dunwoody HS and Peachtree Charter MS Additions
Chamblee Charter HS Addition Scheduled Constuction in 2018
Employee Contract Recommendations for 2017-2018

This is a 1st for DCSD that I can remember - providing a list of the employees recommended for contracts for 2017-2018 school year.  Central Office and Principal Recommendations are in Phase II.
https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=799812&MID=58907

I may be retired to the beach by the time these new school additions are complete - Good Times!!

The following timelines are taken from the ESPLOST-V Project List from the BOE Meeting on Monday night:
https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=800126&MID=58907

  • Construction of new classroom addition at PCMS scheduled to begin June 2021; completion May 2023;
  • Construction of new classroom addition at Dunwoody HS scheduled to begin October 2020; completion Sept. 2022;
  • Construction of new classroom addition at Chamblee HS scheduled to begin November 2018; completion October 2020;
  • Construction of new elementary school for Cross Keys North scheduled to begin December 2018; completion July 2020;
  • Conversion of Cross Keys HS to Cross Keys MS scheduled to begin November 2018; completion June 2020;
  • Construction of new Cross Keys HS scheduled to begin September 2019; completion June 2022;
  • Construction of new classroom addition at Lakeside HS scheduled to begin July 2020; completion June of 2022.



Chamblee Charter High School Pine Straw/Pine Nugget Sale
Deadline for Placing Orders is Wednesday, March 22nd


Click the following link to access the order form:  http://filecabinet3.eschoolview.com/B733AAC2-B3E7-42D9-9F1F-8EB284393FA0/Pine%20Straw%20Order%20form%202017%20PDF.pdf

Edison Prep AP US History & AP World History Bootcamps - April 2017

Edison Prep is holding its 6th annual AP US History and AP World History Bootcamps on Saturday, April 22, and Sunday, April 23, 2017. Students enroll in one day or the other; identical material is presented each day. We know many juniors are taking the AP US History exam in mid-May and/or the SAT II US History Subject Test in either May or June. Similarly, many sophomores are taking the AP World History exam in mid-May and/or the SAT II World History Subject Test in June.
 
Edison Prep holds these bootcamps each year and flies in Mr. Gregory Hudson and Ms. Kelsey Hudson, both experienced AP History instructors, from out-of-state. Mr. Hudson and Ms. Hudson are two of the College Board's certified exam graders and their students perform outstandingly well on the exam each year. 
 
A PDF with more details is displayed below or you can go to www.edisonprep.com/pages/ap history.html for past testimonials and additional information. 
 


To Sign Up: 
Students can hold their spot and enroll via the big yellow buttons at the bottom of these pages:

For the AP US History Bootcamp: http://www.edisonprep.com/pages/apush2017.html 
For the AP World History Bootcamp: http://www.edisonprep.com/pages/apworld2017.html

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chesnut Elementary School Kindergarten Round Up
Thursday, April 13th @ 8:00 am

 
 
Chesnut Elementary School will host Kindergarten Round Up on Thursday, April 13th
 
Kindergarten Round Up provides a chance for rising kindergarten students to meet the teachers and experience Chesnut for the first time. For parents, there will be a panel discussion with current parents.
 
The panel will be ready to talk about the school, the kindergarten experience, and to answer your questions. Sign in begins at 8 a.m. and the program will begin promptly at 8:30 am, ending approximately at 10 a.m.
 
To RSVP, please contact Tamika Pichardo at roundup@chesnutelementary.com
 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Chesnut Elementary Students Place 2nd at
Georgia Educational Technology Fair

Congratulations to Nia and Milan!

photo compliments of "Friends of Chesnut" Facebook page:


A list of all winners is below; courtesy of DeKalb County School District:


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wesleyan School Expands Summer Camps to Include 4-year olds

Wesleyan School is thrilled to announce it is expanding its summer camp offerings to include activities for 4-year-olds.  The camps, which are open to Wesleyan students and non-Wesleyan students, previously were available to children 5-years-old through middle school.  
 
The move is part of the school’s continued commitment to serve local families in the most convenient way possible.
 
“Adding 4 year old was an easy decision,” said Kelly Weatherly, Director of Auxiliary Programs at Wesleyan School. “More families have duel working parents and in order to support them, as well as assist in preparing their child for school, we thought it wise and helpful to create a 4-year-old program. It is a win-win for everyone!”
 
The school is offering multiple camps for the new age group, including, Summer Day Camp: Discover an Adventure , Summer Day Camp: Xtreme STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics),  Summer Sports Camp, and Big Fun Day Camp. Wesleyan also offers full-day camps focusing on fine arts, athletics, and academics – like chess, Lego robotics, movie makers and game designers, and science camps, for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
 
Last year, children from Dunwoody, Peachtree Corners, Johns Creek, Brookhaven, Roswell, Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Decatur, Suwanne, and Duluth attended at least one of the school’s camps. 
 
To learn more about the new camp offerings, visit: http://www.wesleyanschool.org/programs/summer-programs/index.aspx.
 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

DeKalb Schools That "Beat The Odds"

February 28, 2017 More than 1,000 Georgia schools beat the odds in 2016, performing better than statistically expected on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI).

The CCRPI is Georgia’s statewide accountability system. It measures schools and school districts on a 100-point scale based on multiple indicators of performance.
 
The Beating the Odds analysis predicts a range within which a school’s CCRPI score is statistically expected to fall – given the school’s size, grade cluster, student mobility, and student demographics (including race/ethnicity, disability, English learners, and poverty). If an individual school’s actual CCRPI is above the predicted range, then that school beat the odds.
Most (731) of the schools that beat the odds had poverty rates of 25 percent or more, and 437 had poverty rates of 40 percent or more.

And of the 1,037 schools that beat the odds last year, 271 beat the odds in each of the past five years. Eighty-one of these schools had a 2016 poverty rate of 40 percent or more, and more than half – 157 – had poverty rates of 25 percent or more.
 
The following DCSD schools "Beat the Odds" in 2016:

2016 DeKalb County Schools That "Beat the Odds"
2016 DeKalb County Schools That "Beat the Odds"
School
2016 Single Score CCRPI without Challenge Points
2016 Free and Reduced Lunch Rate
 
School
2016 Single Score CCRPI without Challenge Points
2016 Free and Reduced Lunch Rate
Arabia Mountain High School
89.1
49.07
Henderson Mill Elementary School
75.3
67.18
Ashford Park Elementary School
82.4
26.50
Kelley Lake Elementary School
64.3
> 95%
Austin Elementary School
94.7
< 5%
Kittredge Magnet School
104.1
7.69
Bob Mathis Elementary School
58.4
87.15
Laurel Ridge Elementary School
82.1
42.44
Briar Vista Elementary School
73.3
54.93
Lithonia High School
61.9
78.77
Brockett Elementary School
76.3
76.00
Marbut Elementary School
66.1
80.74
Cedar Grove Elementary School
58.4
83.90
Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School
54.9
> 95%
Cedar Grove High School
75.8
79.13
Miller Grove High School
70.9
75.68
Chamblee Charter High School
86.1
34.93
Museum School Avondale Estates
87.2
12.43
Chamblee Middle School
83.7
31.80
Narvie Harris Elementary School
68.9
62.36
Chapel Hill Middle School
64.7
82.85
Oak Grove Elementary School
87.8
6.09
Columbia High School
64.2
78.90
Redan High School
70.6
79.32
Columbia Middle School
59.4
> 95%
Redan Middle School
63.4
88.90
Cross Keys High School
78.1
86.80
Robert Shaw Theme School
70.2
87.01
DeKalb Alternative School
25.5
93.98
Southwest DeKalb High School
75.2
69.11
DeKalb Early College School
99.1
60.50
Stephenson High School
75.6
65.16
DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts
78.4
64.00
Stepenson Middle School
63.8
85.53
DeKalb PATH Academy Charter School
78.0
> 95%
Stone Mill Elementary School
64.1
> 95%
DeKalb Preparatory Academy Charter
60.6
78.72
Stone Mountain High School
67.2
86.26
DeKalb School of the Arts
96.1
27.71
The Champion Middle Theme School
68.1
61.18
Druid Hills High School
78.7
53.56
Tucker High School
76.2
62.23
Dunwoody High School
90.7
29.64
Wadsworth Magnet School for High Achievers
94.0
53.19
Edward L. Bouie, Sr. Elementary School
68.6
63.88
Woodridge Elementary School
64.0
85.94
Eldridge L. Miller Elementary School
56.6
> 95%

Off topic, but the Free & Reduced Lunch rate at the Museum School of Avondale Estates is low.  It was my impression that stand alone Charter Schools are to reflect the diversity of the local school district.  Kittredge Magnet School's F&RL rate of 7.69 is low as well.  Oh, well,  I will stay off my soapbox on this one....

The following list are DCSD  schools that "Beat the Odds" for 5 straight years:  http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/communications/Documents/2-SchoolsthatBeattheOddsforFiveYears.pdf

Arabia Mountain High School, Austin Elementary School, Cedar Grove High School, Chamblee Charter High School, DeKalb Alternative School, DeKalb Early College Academy, DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts, DeKalb PATH Academy Charter School, DeKalb School of the Arts, Miller Grove High School, Robert Shaw Theme School, The Champion Middle Theme School, Wadsworth Magnet School for High Achievers.

For further information, you may access the GADOE Press Release at this link: http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/communications/Pages/PressReleaseDetails.aspx?PressView=default&pid=510