Working together for quality public education.

dunwoodyparents

Catch the Bus! Join the Dunwoody School Bus for the 4th of July Parade.

Catch the bus! Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education has entered a Big Yellow School Bus in the Dunwoody 4th of July parade!

Park at the Kroger shopping center and meet at 8:30 am at the old Ace Hardware location ( staging area for the parade.)

Wear patriotic colors and walking shoes for the 2 ½ mile parade route. Children will ride the bus and the adults will walk alongside, handing out goodies to the crowd.

You will need to make arrangements to be brought to your car after the festivities. The school bus will not return to the starting location.

Help show support of our own Dunwoody School system!

DeKalb board moving toward dual accreditation

By Mike Hassinger For The Dunwoody Crier 

Despite parent wishes to protect accreditation at DeKalb high schools with a back-up plan, School Superintendent Michael Thurmond believes dual accreditation “undermines” his efforts to restore full accreditation for the DeKalb County School System, and does not support it.

“My focus is on gaining full accreditation for the entire district…. That’s what I was hired to do, and that is my focus,” Thurmond told attendees at the May 1 meeting of the Dunwoody Chamblee Parents Council. “I will not support anything that undermines the value of that effort,” he added.

Thurmond’s reluctance flies in the face of direct efforts by parents to seek back-up accreditation, from a state agency, for individual schools should the DeKalb School System lose its accreditation from AdvanceEd, the parent organization of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Since December, DeKalb has been on accreditation “probation,” from SACS-two levels below full accreditation.

Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education, a newly formed 501(c)3 organization, has taken up the dual accreditation issue, and Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall is leading the effort to obtain accreditation from the Georgia Accrediting Commission, which has accredited schools in Georgia for 109 years.  Read more of the story >>>

Parent group’s chair discusses reasons for ‘charter clusters’

Allegra Johnson, chairwoman of the Dunwoody Parents Concerned about Quality Education.Charter schools, individual public schools operated by local groups, have existed in Georgia for years, but a “charter cluster” -– made up of all the schools clustered around a particular high school -– is a relatively new concept in the state. DunwoodyParents.org chair Allegra Johnson spoke with the Dunwoody Reporter about this option.  Read the article in the Dunwoody Reporter >>

Dual accreditation for Dunwoody High School is still in play

By Joe Erle for The Dunwoody Reporter>>

DeKalb County school officials are considering a proposal to allow administrators at individual high schools to seek accreditation for the school from a state agency.

School board member John Coleman, who lives in Brookhaven, said he and fellow board members will consider May 6 whether to allow DeKalb high schools to pursue state accreditation as individual schools.

“We want to make sure we’re enabling that process,” Coleman said. “[We’re tyring] to help that process along to protect students and parents.”

Some Dunwoody parents want Dunwoody High School to seek accreditation from the Georgia Accrediting Commission in Athens because the county’s current accreditation – which applies to all DeKalb high schools — is in jeopardy.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACs), which accredits schools regionally, put the DeKalb County system’s accreditation on probation because of management issues involving the county school board.

Some Dunwoody parents fear that if SACs revokes DeKalb’s accreditation during the next school year, students graduating high school may face a harder time winning scholarships or acceptance to some out-of-state colleges. So they want to seek a back-up accreditation from the Georgia commission, an independent, 109-year-old agency that accredits Georgia high schools.

“High school accreditation is simply too important for us to sit by and do nothing,” Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall, who has been working to win approval of the back-up accreditation, told about 50 parents and local officials who attended a meeting April 28 of the Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education, a new nonprofit organization working to improve Dunwoody schools.

Nall said undertaking the Georgia commission’s accreditation process will cost Dunwoody parents from $2,000 to $3,000. He said several individuals and groups already have volunteered to contribute.

Coleman said school board members want to make sure the process is available to all the high schools in DeKalb and the district may contribute some funds to high schools that need the aid.

Nall said he had been assured by SACs that Dunwoody High’s efforts to win a separate accreditation would have no effect on SACs’ decision regarding the county system’s accreditation.

DeKalb school officials have said they believe is highly unlikely that the county schools will lose their SACs accreditation. Interim School Superintendent Michael Thurmond says school officials are working to address SACs’ complaints and will do so by the agency’s deadline. Gov. Nathan Deal removed six board members and appointed replacements to address the accreditation issue.

Nall called the state accreditation “a safety net” for students graduating next year and in following years. If SACs pulls its accreditation of the county’s high schools, he said, Dunwoody students still will be able to claim they graduated from “an accredited high school.”

Some out-of-state colleges require accreditation from SACs or another regional agency, he said, but others will accept the state accreditation.

“This is about all college-bound students in DeKalb County,” Nall told parents at the April 28 meeting at Dunwoody United Methodist Church. “The board needs to hear [from parents] that this is for all over DeKalb County. It’s not just for Dunwoody. Because if it’s just for Dunwoody, it’s not going to fly.”

April 28 Town Hall Meeting Minutes

Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education in Dunwoody held a second Town Hall meeting on April 28, 2013 at Dunwoody United Methodist Church. The purpose of the meeting was to update the community about options for improving public education in our community, including a City of Dunwoody school system, an independent Charter Cluster, and dual accreditation for Dunwoody High School.

View the April 28 Town Hall Slide Show >>

Read the Dunwoody Parents – April Town Hall Minutes>>

Most DeKalb school board members want jobs back

By Mike Hassinger For The Crier >>

None of the nine members on the DeKalb School Board has ever set a public budget and property tax rate before. But as the brand-new board began the process of public meetings to decide exactly how much the school system will levy and spend next year, questions about the board’s legal status remain unresolved.

The status of the former member from Dunwoody and Brookhaven, Nancy Jester, is uncertain. And then there is the matter of elections next year that might feature all or a few of the former board. In next year’s elections, the board will shrink to seven members, with two at-large seats eliminated.

Five of the six former board members suspended by Gov. Deal have re-applied for their positions on the school board, and former board chair Eugene Walker has also filed a lawsuit challenging the law that gave the governor the authority to remove them in the first place.  Read more >>

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.”

Parents’ group won’t ask to start charter school cluster in Dunwoody just yet

Written by Joe Erle for the Dunwoody Reporter>>

A parents’ group has decided against submitting this month a letter of intent to try to start a charter school cluster in Dunwoody next school year.

Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education had discussed submitting to county and state officials by the April 30 deadline a letter of intent to start a charter cluster. But at the group’s April 28 meeting, organizers said they couldn’t get agreement on the plan from representatives of all Dunwoody’s schools, so they decided to wait.

“It was impractical to try to do it at the speed we were trying to do it,” Dunwoody Parents organizer Robert Wittenstein said. “This is a more sane approach.”

The group’s chairwoman, Allegra Johnson, said Dunwoody Parents now will try to help organize another group to take over the charter cluster effort. That group should include elected representatives from all of Dunwoody’s schools, Wittenstein said

“We’re going to try get it started .. but we will not be in charge,” he said. “It has to be done by folks who are put in charge by the schools.”

The earliest the new group could submit a request for a charter system would be in 2014, he said.

Charter schools clusters are groups of public schools are governed by local councils and  freed from some state and county controls in return for improved performance. Some Dunwoody parents want to make the city’s schools a charter cluster.

Dunwoody parents also back legislative efforts that would allow the city to start its own school system separate from the county.

Town Hall Meeting on April 28, 2013

Town Hall Meeting

by Parents for Quality Education in Dunwoody

April 28

Dunwoody United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall

5 – 6 PM

 

  • Get the latest info on accreditation, legislation for a city school system, and charter cluster school system option
  • Sign up for working committees – let’s build a framework for quality education in Dunwoody
  • Share your ideas for quality education solutions

Since February, community volunteers, public education advocates, Dunwoody City Council, state representatives, and Dunwoody School Councils have discussed ways to improve the quality of education in Dunwoody. Volunteers have gathered information about dual accreditation, charter clusters, initiatives by other high school clusters in DeKalb County, and the legislative process for creating a new school system, and other options.

During meetings with each School Council in Dunwoody, volunteers shared information about Charter Clusters, presented a Letter of Intent to petition DeKalb County to approve a Dunwoody Charter Cluster, and listened to School Council concerns.

This idea has moved very quickly. A May 1 deadline for the Letter of Intent and Fall deadline for the charter petition have driven a sense of urgency.Nonetheless, the charter cluster option is too important and complex to press forward without a community forum.

During a Town Hall meeting, let’s discuss the Charter Cluster option, the pros and cons of a Charter Cluster structure for Dunwoody schools, and the Letter of Intent.

1.  Should Dunwoody school councils press forward with the Fall 2013 deadline?

2.  Or should our community slow down, wait a year, to work more deliberately toward a Fall 2014 petition presentation?

3.  How might the charter petition process provide structure to a possible City of Dunwoody school system?

We will also share updates of the dual accreditation option for Dunwoody High School, the feasibility study for a City of Dunwoody School System, and other information.

We are inviting representatives of each School Council to join the volunteer steering committee as we begin to build critical bridges among our elementary, middle, and high schools.

Sign-up forms will be available for volunteers to form working committees that will begin to define what a Dunwoody school cluster or system should be.

If you can’t attend the Town Hall meeting, let us know where you’d like to volunteer and any concerns or questions you may have to info@dunwoodyparents.org.

Please join us.

Fixing our schools will create a foundation for a high-quality city

Guest Column by Terry Nall for the Dunwoody Reporter>>

As an elected official and active community participant, I am regularly asked about our collective vision for the city over the next quarter century. Any answer to that question should include doing what it takes to build and maintain a high-quality infrastructure that will last well into the future for the benefit of all citizens, both today and the next generation.

One important component of our municipal infrastructure extends beyond the basics of repaving, intersection improvements, storm water systems, parks and public safety. The critical piece I’m referring to is our public schools.

Parents have an obligation to educate their children. While the public school system is not the only avenue for that education, it is an important foundation block that helps define a high-quality city.

When the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools issued its earlier warnings and more recently, the probationary status to the DeKalb County School District, many Dunwoody residents (parents of school children and empty-nest homeowners) all realized a critical threat to our infrastructure had been breached.

These accumulated warnings not only served as a wake-up call for many in Dunwoody, but also as a catalyst for Dunwoody City Council to push the exploration of an independent school district for Dunwoody to the top of Council’s 2013 legislative agenda.

Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) shouldered the responsibility of creating and submitting House Resolution 486 to allow new cities to form their own school systems. This resolution may open the door to the creation of a Dunwoody school district as a potential solution to possible accreditation failures and improving the quality of public education for every student in Dunwoody.

Representative Taylor’s resolution was further supported by City Council when we agreed in principle to allocate up to $50,000 to help fund a feasibility study of a Dunwoody city school system.

This is a positive step forward in helping achieve our vision, but the road ahead on this initiative is long and filled with many obstacles to overcome. The earliest a new school system could be created would be well after any student now in high school graduates.

City Council’s legislative agenda and Representative Taylor’s introduction of HR 486 coincided with the formation of the community 501(c)3 Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education – concerned parents and residents who are similarly passionate and concerned about the state of our schools and our control over their fate. We must explore and exhaust all our available options.

As an elected leader and parent of a Dunwoody High School sophomore, I am part of a community neither willing to wait idly on the sidelines, nor gamble that the remote possibility of uncontrollable events will not occur.

In addition to the city partnering with Representative Taylor and citizens forming exploratory organizations, I have also worked with the Dunwoody High School Council and other influential individuals to make inroads with Interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond as well as several newly-appointed school board members.

Specifically, these outreach requests are about securing optional, dual accreditation of Dunwoody High School to provide a safety net for our graduating high school students to protect against the worst case scenario of SACS.

DeKalb college-bound students need this additional protection. Securing approval from the superintendent and/or school board on this optional, additional accreditation for DeKalb County high schools, including Dunwoody High, is critical.

We strongly believe that all DeKalb high school communities, through their school councils, should pursue optional, additional accreditation on a single-school basis, such as through the Georgia Accrediting Commission. No central office funds or central office involvement is required, beyond the superintendent’s approval allowing the high school principals to proceed, for this to happen.

As this optional, single-school accreditation involves only local high schools, it will not interfere or impede the broader school district governance issues under way with SACS. Plus, it is not uncommon for schools across the state to hold more than one accreditation.

Our schools are important – for economical, personal and societal reasons. Schools help form the foundation of young minds and provide the tools for future generations of leaders. A high-quality school system also leads to improved economic development in our business areas and supports property values for all in the city.

While what we are in the process of accomplishing is daunting and inherently challenging, this mirrors why we became a city four years ago. We wanted local control over our very precious resources. That is why it’s important to act now and together pledge to affect relevant and considerable change.

Not too long ago many residents and politicians said city government couldn’t “really” affect the schools. I’m happy to say that this City Council and its individual members are working hard to change that paradigm. And that change will help us all realize a vision for achieving the high-quality infrastructure we expect.

Terry Nall is an At-Large member of Dunwoody City Council. He is a CPA and a financial services industry executive.

Written for the Dunwoody Reporter, April 8, 2013>>

Steering Committee

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

News & Updates
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