Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Interesting meeting at Kittredge Magnet School
It seems that the redistricting fears have already kicked up so strongly that Jim Redovian felt the need to respond to some Kittredge magnet parents requests for a sit-down. I couldn't resist sitting in as well.
Jim began the meeting by introducing his co-board members, Paul Womack and Pam Speaks and stating that the purpose of the meeting was to "take the thoughts and pains about redistricting away from the minds of the parents". It was just the three of them, no other board reps were in attendance. Donna Edler (in a runoff with Zepora for District 7) and Nancy Jester (in a runoff with Redovian for District 1) were also there. I think word got out that there was a possibility this was going to be more or less a Jim Redovian pep rally, however, that's not what happened at all. Redovian was put on defense in responding to the many questions fired at him by the 100+ parents in attendance. On one hand, he insisted that his hands were tied, while on the other, he more or less promised that nothing would change for the area's magnets.
I shot some (terrible quality) videos with my phone, one of which I split in two parts posted above for everyone to watch (they overlap, so you might want to start the second one at 2:40). I found it interesting, as in the video, basically, Jim promised a parent that his child would not be redistricted out of Chamblee. Also, Paul Womack promised us that they were in the process of cutting the administration so deeply that it would be "unrecognizable". And in response to a question about the enormous administrative costs, Jim stated that we have to have so many administrators due to federal mandates from the $450 million we get in Title 1 funds (which is a wildly incorrect number - we get about $30 million in Title 1 funds annually).
During the discussion, Paul reiterated that we have over 11,000 "empty" seats, mostly in south DeKalb, costing us millions in FTE dollars—thus the need for closures and consolidation. He later promoted Coralwood school, which focuses on children with special needs and does an excellent job, however, since they only serve a couple hundred 3,4 and 5 year olds, I think they don't receive FTE dollars either. (I'm not certain where their funding comes from though.)
Paul also had terrible, hateful comments about "the blogs". He pretty much stated that we don't know what we are talking about. That all of our information is wrong and that we "delight in sitting at home with nothing else to do except create rumors and see where they go". Funnily enough, after that he and Redovian went on to make several statements that endorse specific postings from this blog, such as the fact that the magnets need to be replicated in every school, that there is a history of nepotism in the school system, that more money is actually spent in south DeKalb vs north, that Wadsworth is not equitable to Kittredge, that the (untrue) perception is that you can only get a good education in north DeKalb, that the board has a history of not being transparent. (One parent made the suggestion that in this day and age, many people get their news and information electronically and the school system should be providing it as such. In fact, why don't they have a Q&A blog of their own? I swear - it wasn't me! But, as I have often said, I couldn't agree more.)
Regarding his point about administrative cuts, Womack further stated that "we have teachers who can't write teaching our children" and he specifically asked Tyson what she was going to do about poor performing teachers and administrators. He said that in the past, the superintendent "non-renewed" only about 15 contracts per year, however, this year, Tyson "non-renewed" 152. Womack said that there is currently an accent on getting rid of as many non-performers as possible, in preparation for a new super in April or May.
Womack also was very pleased with the budget cuts they made, stating that they are ahead of the curve by about $29 million. He was proud that the board had "stayed out of the classroom", to which several parents responded that the board cut 20 points to the magnets—8 to Kittredge alone—costing them teachers. (Also, remember that they cut 200 parapros as well as many media clerks and technical support staff to all schools.)
Redovian, in trying to get back to the topic of magnets, assured the crowd that he thinks it would be "insane" to do anything with Kittredge and Chamblee. Womack seconded that by stating that "your program here is safe". Pam Speaks, on the other hand, eluded to the fact that if they can't replicate the program, then they should at least place it in an area of the county that is accessible and equitable for all. Redovian pointed out that if they moved the magnets, they could lose faculty. He said that the "rumors" of moving the program came from the Citizens Task Force on redistricting and that they were referring to the many small, very expensive magnets, like Evansdale and others located all around the county.
Basically, it was a very casual, unfocused discussion from which no new information or knowledge was gained. There is no way that these board members could have any knowledge of what kinds of recommendations will come from the consultant's charrettes and in my opinion, were speaking out of turn. There is no way that they can promise anything to anyone. Truly, until we get all of the facts, none of us can know what the future holds for any school in the system.
For more notes on this meeting, check out Dunwoody Talk's in-depth report.