Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good Choices, Bad Choices, No Choice, and Hard Choices. What about Strategic Choice?

Monday's Board Meeting agenda is posted and we have before us for Dr. Atkinson's first Monthly meeting some items I'd like us to reflect upon.

Lifting from the blog of our suggestions for Dr. Atkinson I made this comment:

"I don't blame parents for seeking a better school for their child - I blame our decades long system of offering "escape" hatches to those who have the wherewithal to find it. We have a system that only responds to squeaky wheels and rearranges funding to support those emergency responses. What we need is a carefully thought out system that offers quality neighborhood schools - AND a few selections for those who wish for something different. But people shouldn't have to seek something different in order to escape the situation at their home school. That is wrong-headed thinking. And it's a self-perpetuating vortex of destruction.

Our system has for far too long been reactive. We need to become proactive. We need planning. We need to offer alternatives that have reasons to exist other than escaping the alternative. We need education-focused leaders - not leaders who simply respond to the most vocal in the community and let the others flounder."

Items 7&8 of Monday's agenda are an amendment to the charter for the International Community School and acceptance of a Letter of Intent to lease Medlock Elementary School to them. Both are recommended for approval. For those of you who are not familiar with this start-up charter school, it has existed in 2 rented church buildings for nearly 10 years. Here is a link to a year's worth of international press coverage that they got in the Christian Science Monitor a few years back. Article #10 discussed some of their struggles to find a permanent facility:

Item 9 is the presentation of a 5 year charter contract for the Museum School of Avondale Estates. Here is a link to the board item, which has a lot of text about the proposed tiered attendance zone for the school as well as the full text of the charter (THANK YOU!). The tiered zones would allow it to be a "community school" for the Avondale, Midway, and Knowlwood zones before admitting additional students county-wide. It has received much support and assistance from the city of Avondale Estates:

In a highly unusual move--the sentence that contains the superintendent's recommendation to the board has a blank where normally approval or denial is requested. Every other item on the agenda has a recommendation for approval.

So my friends. If you were Dr. Atkinson--what would you say to the board on each of these items?


Anonymous said...

I hope that both charter schools get what they need to survive and grow. They are offering much better choices for the children that they serve than DCSS can really provide to the average student. Not sure that this will happen though, as they are not part of the friends and family plan.

Dekalbparent said...

I am so pleased to see that ICS will finally get a home, and that the Medlock community will once more have a school in it. It is a welcoming neighborhood, and I am sure the students and faculty will find some great new friends.

I'm not sure what's going on with the blank in the recommendation for the Museum School - maybe Dr. Atkinson has not yet had a chance to familiarize herself enough to make the recommendation. I hope that she will have done so by the time of the meeting. As I recall, the Museum School was supposed to have a tiered attendance area when it was proposed, so I don't think this is much of a departure. Am I recalling wrong?

Anonymous said...

If my recollection is correct--it was the tiered attendance area that was the "stated" reason why the Mueseum School's charter was originally turned down by the local board--which then allowed it to go to the Commission for approval. The Commission had no problem with the narrow attendance area and TMS was one of 5 "bricks and mortar" schools that they approved in their first round of approvals (Of more than 20 applicants). TMS was the only approval that was not going to use and EMO.
So they started under the commission and had to scramble back to DCSS when the Commission lawsuit was decided against them. DCSS gave them a bridge 1 year charter this June--so that they could remain in operation this year and negotiate the contentious issues (such as that attendance zone) and submit a longer charter in the regular cycle. I recall some contentious discussion at their June approval by some of the board members.

Cerebration said...

My experience in the past with the Avondale community was that almost all of the kids went to St. Thomas More. No one apparently felt good about their local public elementary school and they didn't feel that they had an option (unless they could win a seat at Kittredge). I think this is what drove a group to develop the Museum school charter. Private school is not an affordable option for a lot of people.

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, it USED TO BE the case that charters had primary zones and then they were secondarily open to the whole county, but for some years now the charters have been open to anyone in DeKalb. Why should TMS be any different?

Anonymous said...

Conversion charters do have primary zones that match what they were before they "converted" and got the $200,000 in Federal money. Same staff, same building, a way of filling an under enrolled attendance zone---like Chamblee. And a hope of some autonomy and ability to stand up to the central office staff in select ways.

Many conversions that the state approved in the early days dropped the paperwork burden of being a charter with the implementation money ran out and they realized that the central office wasn't going to allow them to kick out behavior problem kids--(see Druid Hills)

As a result of this and the fact that there is now a "waiver" provision that allows flexibility without becoming a charter--the state now has a much higher bar for the amount of innovation, governance autonomy, and actual state laws that must be waived in order to do that innovation for them to approve a conversion and drop $200K on it.

Anonymous said...

Charter related items almost always have a blank for the superintendent's recommendation. I have no idea why -- to keep the suspense up maybe? But that is almost always how they handle it.

Anonymous said...

It's an even more welcoming development that ICS is also providing permanent housing to the DCSS Marine Corps Academy?

(Just kidding. Only wanted to see how fast the Briarcliff corridor crowd would freak out.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks 10/2 8:24 but TMS isn't a conversion charter, it's a start-up charter and therefore I don't see why it would have different (more restrictive) admission rules than other start-up charters.