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.”
Town Hall Meeting
by Parents for Quality Education in Dunwoody
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please join us.
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
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.
(List of School Council and Charter Council chairs as signers)
On Monday, March 7, the Dunwoody City Council consensus was 7-0 to authorize the city manager to expend up to $50,000 as funding for the school study. The cost of $50,000 or less will be covered by the city.