DeKalb Schools Superintendent applauds Board for taking a stance to oppose OSD, Georgia voters will have final say
DeKalb County, GA, September 20, 2016 – by Trey Benton – The DeKalb County Board of Education issued a statement Monday afternoon urging citizens to reject a controversial amendment to the Georgia Constitution, an amendment that could create a statewide Opportunity School District (OSD). According to Governor Nathan Deal’s estimates, some 141 Georgia schools would be OSD eligible – more than 60 in metro Atlanta alone.
Under Deal’s OSD plan, the State would have total authority including the power to take control of schools deemed to be perennially underperforming. The state would also have total authority to change the curriculum, the budgets and remove school administrators and teachers. The legislation would enable the state to directly manage the school, share governance with a local school board, convert the school to a charter school or close the school – all overseen by a new Superintendent position that would report directly to the Governor.
But Monday’s move by the DeKalb Board adds their name to a growing number of school boards who are opposing the Governor’s plan, saying “it is not only wrong but risky to give up local control to a new state bureaucracy.” The DeKalb School District says progress is being made at a steady rate to get challenged schools off the list of those OSD eligible, and through increased efforts they will prevail.
DeKalb School Superintendent, Dr. R. Stephen Green applauded the Board for taking the stance to oppose OSD. “Often times we find things that may be politically advantageous but are not educationally sound. This is one of them,” said Dr. Green. He noted that a number of the 26 DeKalb schools that have been identified as potential OSD schools, 15 of them are within 5 points of meeting the minimum 60% (on a scale of 100) in the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) performance measure – 3 schools have already come off of the list.
Dr. Green said the School District is making progress, but turnaround is deep, hard and intensive work. “There are no quick fixes, there’s no magic situation or magic elixir that’s going to turn schools around,” said Dr. Green. “The principles, the leadership, the teachers, the community wrapping around a school, will lift a school up and help it overcome some of the challenges that it faces. We can do this. We will do this.”
Board member Marshall Orson said,” We have to acknowledge we have schools that are not doing as well as we expect them to be. But we are embarked on a pathway and program to address those concerns.” Orson said his objection to the OSD is that he does not believe it changes outcomes.
“We as local systems will continue to be responsible for educating the vast majority of children in Georgia,” said Orson. “If there is an issue that people believe in terms of our capacity and capability, then I would think that the state would be focused on building that capacity and building that capability for the benefit of the children we serve. That’s really the logical way to address these issues of schools that are underperforming.”
Dr. Green told the Board that the District has reallocated over $6 million in the budget to address those challenges and the results of the progress is being seen. Dr. Green expects that progress will continue and should be allowed to continue uninterrupted. He said if schools were to be pulled in to an OSD, it would actually cause the schools to regress due to what he called “implementation dip”.
Of the 15 schools within 5 points of meeting the 60% CCRPI level, Dr. Green said he expects them to “cross over” within the year. Others, he said, will begin to meet the required level in chunks. Approximately 10 of the schools identified as being challenged, Dr. Green said efforts are underway to identify internal and external changes such as staff and community partners to elevate these schools. He said 3 to 5 years is the typical turnaround time for those schools most challenged.
Orson added that the Board and the District are not “just aiming for the bottom” – getting to the 60% level and calling it a day. “There is a very focused, meaningful, ongoing commitment to sustained improvement in every school, even in schools that we perceive as doing well,” he said. “We’re raising this floor because we expect every student to have great opportunities here.”
DeKalb School Board members issued the following statement:
The DeKalb County Board of Education urges its citizens Say NO to state takeover of local schools.
After careful consideration, the DeKalb County Board of Education urges voters to say NO on the proposed Constitutional Amendment #1, the Opportunity School District amendment.
Local control of education is a bedrock American principle. We strongly believe that citizens whose taxes pay for a majority of the cost of educating our children should exercise control over decisions relating to that education. We believe it is not only wrong but risky to give up local control to a new state bureaucracy.
The Board strongly believes that the answer to improved academic outcomes and achievement is in the classroom and the schoolhouse, with motivated, well-trained teachers; engaged, challenged students; and involved, supportive parents, caregivers, and communities.
To accomplish our goals of restoring DeKalb’s national reputation for academic excellence and for providing world-class services to our students, staff, and communities, DeKalb County Schools will continue to invest in our children and our teachers. We have demonstrated our commitment over the last year by eliminating all teacher furlough days and granting multiple pay increases for our teachers and staff. We are steadfast in our commitment to achieve educational outcomes for all DeKalb County Students as we transform our schools through rigor, relevance, and relationships. Voting NO to a state takeover of our local schools will allow DeKalb to continue its progress for all Students.
“I think that this is a premier move on behalf of the DeKalb County School District. We are committed as a District to making sure that we educate all children,” said Board member, Dr. Joyce Morley. “We must be in control of educating our children.”
If passed by voters, the State run OSD would take in no more than 20 schools per year and would be capped at 100 schools at any given time. Schools would stay in the OSD for no less than 5 years, but no more than 10 years, before being returned to local area control.