Brookhaven, GA, September 14, 2016 – Editorial by Kim Gökçe – As a long time advocate for expanding support for public education in Brookhaven, I recognize that the DeKalb County School District is our critical partner in this goal.
To that end I have invested a decade of volunteer hours working with civic, neighborhood, non-profit and municipal organizations. I’ve supported the efforts for our public schools from PATH Academy, Cross Keys and Ashford Park in Brookhaven, to Chamblee Charter High and Dresden in Chamblee, to Sequoyah and Oakcliff in Doraville.
I’ve supported the expansion of public charter options, the Independent School District constitutional amendment, SPLOST referendums, and most recently championed the approval of the Brookhaven Innovation Academy (BIA) application in front of the State Charter Commission.
In each case, I have been both celebrated and pilloried by neighbors around the region who fail to remember the one consistent message in all I do: “Every Opportunity for Every Child.” It’s no accident this is the slogan for the 501(c)3 I started, the Cross Keys Foundation.
The Cross Keys Foundation and its supporters have been working diligently for many years to motivate DeKalb Schools to address its inequities, particularly for the kids of BuHi areas. In early years, we were mostly ignored. My self-comforting quip to friends is that the people who then ignored us are wearing striped pajamas these days.
Starting with the intervention by Governor Deal and his courageous replacement of the DeKalb Board of Education with his appointees I have noticed a subtle, but steady, improvement in governance of DeKalb Schools. This was evident in Michael Thurmond’s tenure that acknowledged the overcrowding of Region 1 and 2 schools. This continued through Dr. Green’s early tenure as he reiterated his commitment to face 20-year, nagging problems head-on.
During the past year, I have witnessed the Superintendent and Board of Education conduct their business with the most cohesion and consistency in recent memory in spite of very hot politics. I have detected a change in expectations and professionalism. From the top on down I see greater accountability and openness being demanded throughout the District.
I am encouraged by the willingness of the leadership to take risks and face opposition willingly when they know they are doing the right thing for public education in DeKalb. It is my hope that this recently demonstrated “backbone” will remain firm in the implementation of what will be a highly disruptive set of recommendations coming out of the District’s “Secondary Schools Study.”
Actions taken based on this Study will bring significant change to our communities in the short run as it contemplates major construction projects (>$230M over five years) and periodic redistricting when new capacity comes online. In our communities of interest there are areas of agreement and some of vehement disagreements, as we all might expect.
The one thing everyone agrees upon is that these decisions by the Board of Education will have a generational impact on our communities. For me, the answer is clear: “Every Opportunity for Every Child.” We must demand that DeKalb provide equity and access to outstanding academic and extracurricular programs at all area schools, including at the hoped-for construction of new high school in Brookhaven to replace Cross Keys.
I invite you to read the position letter of the Cross Keys Foundation on these questions and to express your view in DeKalb’s Online Survey. The deadline for feedback is September 16 at midnight. Be sure to select “Option B” on the survey if you believe as I do that one plus one equals three.
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