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Who is DunwoodyParents.org and how did they become a steering committee?

From the Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education Facebook Page: 

Who is DunwoodyParents.org and how did they become a steering committee?

We’re a group of Dunwoody parents, business owners, homeowners, and taxpayers concerned about quality education, people who came together in a shared vision that it was time to do something about public education in Dunwoody. We have different ideas, opinions, and perspectives, but we’re united in the belief that our children deserve a quality education. Our mandate? To gather and share information and ideas across the community.

Right now, we are reaching out to the school councils, PTO/PTA/PTSOs of each school in the Dunwoody cluster to begin a dialogue about the opportunities and challenges facing each one. Those meetings will be the beginning of a community-wide discussion through public forums, working committees, and other engagement opportunities.

Right now, school councils are reviewing a Letter of Intent to CONSIDER a charter school cluster option (not a commitment and certainly not a petition). Two community volunteers are shepherding the Letter to each school. If it’s approved, representatives of each school will head up the effort, with volunteers staffing each working committee.

Right now, Tom Taylor is networking his Legislation providing for the creation of a City of Dunwoody School System, a process that picks up next fall when the legislature reconvenes. (The Charter Cluster effort and the City of Dunwoody School System option actually complement each other – the work for the Charter Cluster can directly translate into the structure of the City School System.)

Right now, Dunwoody’s City Council is investigating the costs of a feasibility study for a City of Dunwoody School System AND appealing to Superintendent Thurmond to allow dual accreditation for Dunwoody High School.

Right now, many things are happening. Stay tuned. Like this page. Share it with your friends.

We’re all in this together!

Dunwoody Area Charter Cluster Information

The great news is that people in Dunwoody are deeply engaged in the issues affecting quality public education in our community.  Dunwoody Talk, one of many local blogs, engaged in a discussion about the pros and cons of the charter cluster option, one of several considered in the community.

Knowledge is power.  And getting up to date information about the various initiatives keeps us all in the loop.  Here’s what DunwoodyParents.org had to say in response to posted questions and concerns (read the entire response by clicking the link below):

Dunwoody Talk>>

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.

 

Allegra Johnson (President)

Robert Wittenstein (Steering Committee Representative)

Dunwoody Charter Cluster Letter of Intent

Dunwoody Charter Cluster

A group led by Pam Tallmadge and Jim Redovian is exploring the Charter Cluster model as a possible local control option for Dunwoody area public schools.  The first step of the exploration is a non-binding Letter of Intent to be filed with the State and County Boards of Education.

The Letter of Intent proclaims that the community will consider, research, and petition for Charter School Cluster status during the next year. To that end, working committees will form to address all the considerations of a locally controlled cluster. The Letter of Intent is not specific to the structure and goals of a charter cluster, merely a proclamation that the community wishes to consider this avenue.

Here’s the Letter of Intent:

 

Dunwoody High School

5035 Vermack Road

Dunwoody, Georgia 30338

—and its feeder schools—

Peachtree Charter Middle School▪Austin Elementary▪ Chesnut Charter Elementary ▪Dunwoody Elementary ▪ Hightower Elementary▪Kingsley Charter Elementary ▪VanderlynElementary

 

Georgia Department of Education                          DeKalb County Board of Education

Charter Schools Division                                             Office of Charter Schools

2053 Twin Towers East                                                Administrative and Instructional Complex

205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE                                           1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard

Atlanta, Georgia  30334                                                Stone Mountain, Georgia 30083

 

Re:       Letter of Intent to Submit Petition for High School Cluster Charter

 

Dear Colleagues:

In accordance with Georgia State Board of Education Rule 160-4-9-.04, please accept this letter of intent to submit a Petition for the Dunwoody High School Charter Cluster, within the DeKalb County School District.

It will be the mission of the proposed Dunwoody High School Charter Cluster to work with all stakeholders to provide a variety of educational opportunities and challenges in a safe learning environment that will allow all students to acquire the critical thinking skills, knowledge, and values found at their highest potential, and to become self-assured, responsible citizens of our ever-changing global society.

The schools within the DHSCC would serve students in pre-K through the twelfth (12th) grades.  Each of the constituent elementary schools — Austin Elementary,Chesnut Charter Elementary, Dunwoody Elementary,Hightower Elementary, Kingsley Charter Elementary and Vanderlyn Elementary — would serve pre-K through fifth (5th) grades; Peachtree Charter Middle School would serve the cluster’s sixth (6th) through eighth (8th) grades; and Dunwoody High School would serve the cluster’s ninth (9th) through twelfth (12th) grades.

The proposed opening date for the Dunwoody High School Charter Cluster would be on or about August 1, 2014.  The opening date would coincide with the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

We look forward to working with you as we explore the benefits that a conversion charter cluster would bring to the students and stakeholders in the Dunwoody High School Cluster.  We will be working diligently to develop and complete our Petition in the time prescribed by DCSD.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

(List of School Council and Charter Council chairs as signers)

Update

Happening this week: DunwoodyParents.org is researching the dual accreditation option, reviewing Druid Hills’ charter cluster application, providing information to the group presenting a Dunwoody charter cluster option to School Councils in our community, and preparing a budget for communications and research.

Parents and teachers are working hard to support quality education in Dunwoody. And DunwoodyParents.org is staying on track to create a better public education environment for our community.

The quality of Dunwoody schools affects our students, taxes, economic development … everything that makes Dunwoody a wonderful place to live and work.  What can we do to strengthen the quality of public education in our community?  Stay engaged and connected with DunwoodyParents.org.

Accreditation woes affect local homebuying decisions

 

School District Consolidation: The Benefits and Costs

What recent research reveals about expected financial savings when small districts merge

“First, consolidated school districts usually make use of larger schools, which implies that average transportation distance must increase. As a result, consolidation might increase a district’s transportation spending per pupil.

Second, consolidating districts may level up salaries and benefits to those of the most generous participating district, thereby raising personnel costs.

Third, administrators and teachers may have a more positive attitude toward work in smaller schools, which tend to have more flexible rules and procedures.

Finally, students may be more motivated and parents may find it more comfortable to interact with teachers in smaller districts, which tend to have a greater community feel. These reactions and closer student-faculty relationships may result in higher student performance at any given spending level.”

>> Read the article from The School Superintendents Association here.

Dunwoody Charter School Cluster Option

A group led by Pam Tallmadge and Jim Redovian is exploring the Charter Cluster model as a possible local control option for Dunwoody area public schools.  The first step of the exploration is a non-binding Letter of Intent to be filed with the State and County Boards of Education.

The Letter of Intent proclaims that the community will consider, research, and petition for Charter School Cluster status during the next year. To that end, working committees will form to address all the considerations of a locally controlled cluster. The Letter of Intent is not specific to the structure and goals of a charter cluster, merely a proclamation that the community wishes to consider this avenue.

What is a Charter Cluster?  The following links provide details about legislation, guidelines, and other information:
  • Georgia Department of Education: Click here.
  • Code Section Code Section 20-2-2064 of the Official Code of Georgia: Click here.
  • Guidelines for Charter School Petitions, DeKalb County:  Click here.
If you have any questions, please contact Pam Tallmadge (pamtallmadge@comcast.net) or Jim Redovian (jim@redovian.com).
Steering Committee

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

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