Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weber pushes charter school charter school cluster concept

According to this week's Dunwoody Crier, State Sen. Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody) is pushing for the charter school charter school cluster concept for DeKalb county schools.

Weber pointed to a chart showing that the total education expenditures per pupil has doubled over the last 20 years, but achievement scores have remained flat.

“We’ve been researching for 20 years but haven’t found the magic bullet,” Weber told a meeting last week of the Ashford Alliance Community Association. The answer, said the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is returning to a system where local schools rather than the superintendent and the central office make the decisions that affect the learning in their schools.

The model, called The High School Charter Cluster, includes the local high school as well as the middle school and all the elementary school that feed into it. Weber envisions that each cluster would have a council that serves as its governing body made up of administrators and parents and probably the local school board representatives.

Federal and state mandates would still have to be followed, and the local board of education would still be responsible for things like transportation and food service. In exchange for having local control of the charter cluster, the cluster council would be accountable for achieving results. Weber is hopeful that school board members, who have to approve such a move, will be open to these changes that are gaining support among parents and schools.

Weber, who authored Georgia’s charter school act, said charter schools can be hampered by decisions still being overridden by the central office.

“Neighbors should have more control of neighborhood schools,” argued Weber, which is why the state law he authored requires that to become a charter cluster, 60 percent of current parents and administrators within the charter cluster must approve the change.

Weber thinks the charter cluster provides the model to implement “what we’ve already learned. We know that increased discipline, longer school days, and teacher accountability already work.”

To read the article in the Crier online, click here.


Anonymous said...

Charter schools seem to be the answer. I don't know much about them yet, but they seem to cut bureaucracy, and that is the key to all the problems we've discussed on this blog. Basically, there should be no need for a central office at all, and autonomy should be local. Let the "market" compete in the arena of ideas as far as what works in the classroom. The enormous burden of the micromanaging directives from a literal army of ill-educated non-teachers has crushed education in DeKalb and in many other places - we must be freed up to teach once again, in all our many different styles. One teacher might be very effective through lecture (I've had professors that I could have listened to for hours); others through games and technology, etc. There is no one size fits all. Fictions like "all teachers need an opening/work period/closing" or "all teachers need a word wall" are just that, fictions, and dangerous, counter-productive ones at that. We have absolutely no power to dismantle the toxic bureaucracy in DeKalb. Our contant rallying cries on this blog of "We must do something now!!!" are, sadly, pointless and empty. We are not empowered to do anything. The foxes are guarding the chicken coop and we, the chickens, can do nothing about it. Only the state could ever dismantle the sickening, child-robbing jobs program at the central office. Teach us more about charters...this seems to be a way to take back education. That is, if there are any teachers left to staff them after the abuse we've suffered here over the past several years.

Anonymous said...

If Charter Clusters will be Conversion Charter Schools still under the jurisdiction of DCSS, than how will change come? Having worked in Conversion Charter Schools, they are simply DCSS schools with a few extras-teachers are required to do DCSS stuff and charter stuff, so I don't see any real innovation for the education of our children.

If the Charter Clusters will be schools that start from scratch and are able to build an identity away from DCSS, than I am all for it.

The only other way that I can see DCSS improving is for the state to come in and dismantle the administration and things start from scratch. I don't see this happening, and I don't see the board hiring someone with the gumption of Michelle Rhee who is not afraid to fire people and who is for the children receiving a quality education and not afraid of people not liking her.

The more that I see and hear about schools all around our county, the more I realize that the entire system needs changing, not just one cluster or area of town.

As a county, we need to work together for the better education of all of our children and stop being divided. ALL of our children are suffering from a poor quality education and they all deserve better than what they are receiving.

Ella Smith said...

Corey Wilson got asked a question at the forum last week regarding the North and South and immediately he made it known that we are one Dekalb. He is really a very sharp young man and I have ultimate respect for him.

I also know that school systems like Fulton are applying to be a Charter School System to improve the choices they have due to becoming a charter system. I do think it is worth looking into. I do feel that the community must feed into this type of system for it to be successful.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear more about this process. I attended school in a small school district. One high school with about 600 students, one middle school and two elementary schools. I knew every student in graduating class by name. We had students who went to work at the local car repair place after graduation and students who went on to study at Dartmouth, U Penn, and Brown. It is entirely possible to educate every child. I think we can get the job done without the county office "army of experts." Charter school clusters will allow our schools to be more responsive to the community they serve.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Chamblee district, where the parents are incredibly involved and they would be willing to take the lead on a charter cluster. Chamblee Middle is working on applying for Charter status currently.

My fear though is the current leadership of Tyson, Moseley, Thompson, Beaseley, Berry, Hunter, Mitchell-Mayfield, Ramsey and the rest will do everything possible to make sure the Charters fail. The know some clusters would fail miserably since there is no parental buy-in. So to be "equitable" we can't have clusters that are charters and others that are not.

This is about their power! Their pay! Do you honestly think they are going to be fired? they will threaten racism, threaten lawsuits etc.. their dismissal will cost OUR students even more millions. This is why we need the state to come in and say thank you for your service, don't let that $500 Palace doorknob hit you on the way out for good!

I just don't see this bunch leaving.. Moseley should have been fired months ago for his fraudulent "attendance figures" and letting Clew and Pope get away with what they did. He had to know something! Same thing goes for Thompson and Mitchell-Mayfield.

We can handle getting rid of the BOE but will we be able to celan the palace out?

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Anonymous
"Charter schools seem to be the answer."

I believe charter schools are the answer -- especially in a dysfunctional school system that refuses to make changes and is unable to successfully educate children, like DCSS. Charter schools are public schools that cannot charge tuition and are all about educating children.

With the exception of having to raise money from outside donors (not as big a problem for conversion charters), charter schools are laser-focused on successfully educating all students who attend the charter.

Charter schools have a tremendous incentive to succeed. Unlike traditional public schools (and that includes "theme" schools in DCSS), a charter school that is not successful at educating children and does not meet the terms of its charter will lose its charter and will be closed.

For more information on charter schools, go to Georgia Charter School Association website at You may want to participate in GCSA's two free on-demand webinars about opening a charter school. You may access these at (Recorded Sessions – Getting Started and Building Blocks). Both are about ½ hour in length.

You also may want to:
(1) Sign up for the free GCSA newsletter (very informative; you do not have to be a member to receive it). Go to
(2) You may want to join the Georgia Parent Advocacy Network (G-PAN) -- a partner with GCSA. Go to

You also are welcome to get in touch with me: I chaired the committee that converted Chamblee High School to Chamblee Charter High School and I have other charter school experience. I am committed to the charter school concept!

Anonymous said...

The state is setting the bar higher and higher for conversion charter schools and so new ones better have lots of autonomy and unique instructional offerings if they expect to be approved at the state level. One of the great challenges for conversions today is that the state has become much more flexible and many ideas that were unique 5-10 years ago aren't so unique anymore and don't require a charter to implement. IB is an example of this. I would think the same standards will be applied to charter clusters.

What is the instructional motivation driving the charter? How will the schools function differently than non-charter public schools?

Sandy Spruill said...

@ Anonymous 12:52 PM

"I live in the Chamblee district ..."

If you -- or anyone else reading this -- are interested in working on a Chamblee Charter Cluster, please get in touch with me ... Time's a-wasting!

Anonymous said...

While the concept of a small cluster is attractive, what is the practical application vis-a-vis transfers? Would a charter cluster be able to stop them, or would they still occur under NCLB, or whatever other bizarre standard DCSS uses?

Cerebration said...

I think charter schools must accept whatever transfers apply - if there is space. However, the charter is allowed much more flexibility as to what it does with the resources that accompany those students. Perhaps they would be more inclined to use tutoring or double-dose subjects in order to bring students who arrive from sub-standard schools up to par? Whatever, at least they will not be subject to scrutiny from central office as to how their bulletin boards look.

Kim Gokce said...

Anon 12:04pm "Charter schools seem to be the answer."

What is the question?

Anonymous said...

Kim, I guess the questions are: How can we fix this unholy, unworkable mess we call public education in DeKalb County? How can we escape unrelenting interference and abuse from administrators for enough hours of the day to deliver instruction? How can I teach and make enough money to support myself and still get home in time to see my kids before they go to sleep?

Anonymous said...

In Dekalb County, the School Board IS the problem. Many parents genuinely care about the quality of education their child receives and about the integrity and commitment to excellence of their School Board. They (including me) do not want people like Zepora Roberts, Sara Copelin-Wood, etc. on their School Board. Sadly, we have school districts that elects these people. Accordingly, many parents are very open to alternatives and they will find those alternatives. They understand that they will have one opportunity to get their child's education right. They are no longer willing to entrust the guidance of their child's education to people like Roberts, Copelin-Wood, Bowen, Walker, Speaks, et. al.

I am looking forward to working with our state legislators to find a new system that will get the incompetence and mismanagement out of our schools and that includes the Dekalb School Board of Education. Frankly, I like the concept of Charter Schools, but without and involvement of the School Board. Clusters such as Dunwoody, Chamblee, Tucker, Stone Mountain, would become communities that take pride in their local schools and would work toward excellence. The current emphasis of this School Board is to impose mediocrity on everyone.

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody as a city is doing things the right way. They already have a surplus. They value customer service. They have incredibly quick police response times. And one of their own councilpersons, John Heneghan, records every council meeting (and even some other smaller meetings) by video and/or audio, and posts it online for anyone to view at their convenience (Can you imagine and DeKalb BOE member of commissioner ever valuing that much transparency??!!).

Dunwoody knows the school system is the one thing truly holding them back (well, they do have traffic problems, especially by the GA Perimeter College).

Dunwoody is smartly going to have their state rep's and senator pass legislation for a charter school system for all Dunwoody schools. If this happens, we may just be able to keep Dunwoody in DeKalb.

If not, they will be out the door with Milton County whenever that forms. And who could blame them?

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone is listening. Finally, someone is speaking up about a viable solution. Thank you! We are tired of the same old way of thinking that permeates DCSS central office folks, trickling down to the principals who fear for their jobs (and have reason to fear). Speak too loudly, Any Employee, and your job is toast. No matter if truth is being spoken loudly. No matter if doing the right thing for the students and the school is being spoken loudly. THEY don't want anyone to rock their boat, so they get rid of you one way or another. Principals know this so they tread lightly. It's sad for the students. SO, YES, to high school charter clusters. Finally, someone gives some hope for an answer to take back our schools and survive this catastrophe. Let us know how we can help.

Anonymous said...

Any objections to combining a Chamblee-Dunwoody charter cluster?

Anonymous said...

How are we funding the Charter Cluster? I think the Independent School District idea may be more fiscally viable.....

Anonymous said...

The elephant in the room keeps trumpeting. We have schools in the county that are in a true crisis. Chamblee and Dunwoody clusters can secede from the DCSS, but the BOE will still have the same problems - only concentrated. We must raise the game of the entire county system. We have been throwing good money after bad at centally located "experts", consultants, the latest trends, rather than applying local good sense and fortitude.

Why do we need another layer of supervision to make schools work? Lets skip the Charter and empower the (well trained, accountable, motivated) principals to do what needs to be done locally. The county level should be a small enough segmentation for this. If one school needs 14 armed guards to keep the peace, so be it. If another school wants to teach all their classes using the Socratic method, so be it. Each of the parent populations must make their own school accountable. The county should set standards and provide logistic support - end of story.

Cerebration said...

I don't know - I wonder if we shouldn't let the schools that can handle it break off and run themselves. Why hog-tie them to the central office? It's like when a teacher sees that a couple of students "get it" and can move on - the teacher sends them off to move ahead - or work with a Discovery teacher to move ahead. No need to make the entire system move at the same pace or share the same resources or follow the same set of conditions. One size does not fit all.