Working together for quality public education.

Charter cluster petition to be delayed a year

By Dick Williams For The Crier |

Parents of Dunwoody public school students got an update Sunday from the group that is pursuing three potential paths to greater independence from the DeKalb County school system. One of them, they learned, has been delayed for a year.

Allegra Johnson, speaking for the effort to petition the school system for a charter cluster, said the failure of one school council to sign the letter of intent means no letter will be submitted this year by the eight schools envisioned in the cluster. The Vanderlyn school council raised questions that delayed the effort at the April 30 deadline.

Johnson and Pam Tallmadge said the Dunwoody schools will have another chance to submit a petition in February. In the meantime, the Druid Hills and Lakeside high school clusters have petitioned the school board and will be the test cases.

Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education is farther along in its quest to seek dual accreditation for Dunwoody High. The effort led by City Councilman Terry Nall has been stalled by the interim school superintendent Michael Thurmond.

”It shouldn’t be a political battle,” Nall said, “but unfortunately it is.”

Nall explained that accreditation for Dunwoody High is a safety net for unforeseen events. He said that while the head of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has told the DeKalb board loss of accreditation is highly unlikely, the Georgia Supreme Court could overturn the law that cost six members of the DeKalb board their jobs (see related story page 1).

While SACS told Nall verbally and in a letter that it had no objection to high schools seeking dual accreditation, “the superintendent has not acted and is an unresponsive mode.”

Nall said board members representing Lakeside and Druid Hill are trying to pass a resolution for dual accreditation or declare it a formal board policy change, a maneuver that takes two months. The Georgia Accrediting Commission meets Sept. 8 and March 9, 2014.

The ultimate goal of the parents’ group is an independent Dunwoody school system. Robert Wittenstein spoke of progress on that front.

With the Dunwoody City Council agreeing to pay for a feasibility study, the parents’ group has solicited proposals and has chosen one from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation in partnership with Dr. Christine Reis, a professor of economics at Georgia Tech. A contract with the city and the parent group was to be signed this week.

Wittenstein emphasized that passing a constitutional amendment through the General Assembly with a two-thirds majority was a tough row to hoe. But a feasibility study ready by late fall would be a major step. If it passed the legislature, it would go to voters statewide in November, 2014.

Under repeated questioning, primarily from a Vanderlyn representative, Wittenstein summed up the group’s three-pronged approach.

“These are insurance policies for our students, one against the other.”

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Steering Committee

Claire Botsch
Deb Cameron
Gil Hearn
Allegra Johnson
Rick Otness
Heyward Wescott
Robert Wittenstein

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