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Why was information withheld from the DeKalb Board of Education?

Last week, in advance of the school board voting on a new charter school policy, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) sent DeKalb a letter outlining necessary revisions. This 8-page letter was withheld from board members (they did ask to see this), who were then asked to vote on the policy.  To my knowledge, board members have still not received this letter. I wrote to the Georgia DOE and requested a copy of the letter and they quickly responded. Here is that letter:

GaDOE Review of DCSS Charter School Policiy and Regulation – 2015-09-11

Additionally, here is the email exchange between the DeKalb school district and the Georgia DOE: Email exchange between DCSD and State DOE regarding charter policy

Of particular importance, on Friday, September 11th, at 7:31pm, the Georgia DOE indicated that:

“Your response will be a good indicator of DCSS’s commitment to being a good charter partner. The State Superintendent and SBOE are as hopeful as we are that our renewed partnership will continue in a healthy fashion.”

On Monday, the DeKalb Board of Education passed the charter policy without ever being provided the Georgia DOE’s letter containing requested revisions and guidance on on its charter policy. DeKalb passed the charter policy without including any of the changes requested by the state DOE. Of particular importance is the very first revision that the GADOE noted in their 8-page letter. Here’s that requested revision:

1. Please remove “unique” and “innovative” from the initial paragraph of the proposed DCSS Policy in which it is stated that DCSS seeks to authorize high quality charter schools with “innovative, unique…academic programs”.

  • No state law, SBOE rules, or GaDOE guidelines require charter schools to implement unique or innovative programming that is not conducted elsewhere in a school district. 
  • Therefore, requiring “innovative, unique” academic programs in a new charter school or one seeking renewal places a greater burden on charter schools than is legally required.
  • The goal in creating charter schools is to produce higher student performance in exchange for autonomy from the state and local district regardless of the academic model selected or the degree to which that model is unique or innovative.

DeKalb has hard-wired into their policy the onerous requirement that a charter school must provide a “unique” or “innovative” academic program. I predict that DeKalb will use this requirement to deny any and every charter not connected to the “friends and family” that run the district.

On that very same evening, the DeKalb administration recommended denial of a Spanish language immersion charter school to be located in the McNair cluster area. The McNair cluster of schools have struggled academically for years and now have been denied a school choice option. The reason for denial?  The program wasn’t innovative as DeKalb already has a language immersion charter.  That’s true.  It’s in north DeKalb.  What is also true is that one of the Board members who voted to deny this charter represents the district in which this charter school was to be located.  What is also true is that a Board member who voted to deny this charter sends their children outside of their district through school choice programs, including the charter language immersion school in north DeKalb.  So, school choice is good for the school board members who can get their children across town.  School choice for the McNair kid who didn’t get in the lottery or isn’t able to get to North DeKalb in the mornings, well, apparently, tough luck.  Your Board member and your DeKalb bureaucrats, have decided that this charter petition wasn’t “unique”.  My advice to all new charter school petitioners:  Argue that your charter petition is unique because you won’t fail children.  Apparently, that’s a unique feature from my perspective.

The school district also denied the Druid Hills Charter Cluster last year. Soon, the district will take up renewing charters for conversation charters, like Chamblee Charter High School. If the district isn’t a good charter partner with the state DOE, can we expect Chamblee’s charter review and recommendation to get a fair shake? And, what do these developments portend for DeKalb’s application to the Georgia DOE to be a “charter school district”? At this point, DeKalb asking to be a charter school district, seems a bit like, an abusive parent submitting their name for a “Parent of the Year” award.

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15 Comments

  1. Mary Hoyt says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to request the correspondence and write this up. Who exactly should’ve been responsible for giving school board members this correspondence pre vote?

  2. magadams says:

    I am shocked and disturbed. As Mary Hoyt said, who is the withholding party? Superintendent Green? And it seems the board was aware there was a letter. Can the vote not be rescinded? Or can the charter be amended?

  3. Shelley Kim says:

    Who is responsible for the communication breakdown?
    btw – love the longhorn in the field!

  4. snjz says:

    I watched the part of the most recent DeKalb County Schools (DCS) board meeting that dealt with DCS’ charter schools policy. Superintendent Green said that he had met with Lou Erste of the Georgia Department of Education about DCS’ charter schools policy. Green said that Erste just made “suggestions,” but the written copy, reiterating what Erste said in the meeting (with Green) came in late on Friday and he (Green) did not have time to look at it.

    Green declared that DCS is compliant with state law and the State Board of Education (SBOE) Rules. He asked attorney Laura Lashley(of Nelson Mullins) to confirm that and she did. Lashley was asked several times if DCS was compliant with state law and SBOE Rules. Each time Lashley said “Yes.”

    I was amazed that Lashley, as an officer of the court, was willing to put her legal career at risk and damage the credibility of Nelson Mullins by apparently lying.

    Green, in possession of Erste’s list of required revisions to DCS’ charter schools policy, not only lied, he was also insubordinate. Green knowingly lied, putting his career at risk, and he should be fired — no second chance, no severance. Green cannot be trusted.

    Green was asked by each of the three board members (Stan Jester, Jim McMahan, Marshall Orson), all of whom ultimately voted against DCS’ charter schools policy, to provide a copy of the email from Erste. They also asked to postpone the vote until they could see and study Erste’s email.

    Green declined to provide Erste’s email unless the DCS board directed him to do so. It was clear from the discussion that four board members (Erwin, Johnson, Morley and Turner) would vote against providing the board with a copy of Erste’s email and/or postponing the vote. Erwin, Johnson, Morley and Turner voted in favor of DCS’ apparently illegal charter schools policy.

    BTW — Erwin has a daughter in a DCS charter school. He also voted against the Druid Hills Charter Cluster petition, which was well done. Erwin has repeatedly denied his constituents and the rest of DeKalb County public school students the same opportunity his daughter has.

    The next day I saw what Erste sent Green. Erste listed 38 specific required revisions of DCS’ charter policy required by state law and SBOE Rules.

    I also saw the correspondence between Erste and Green. Erste’s emails were fact-based and respectful. Green’s final paragraph in his last email was not; it was rude and offensive. Request a copy from GaDOE and see for yourself.

    DeKalb County Schools is, indeed, a rogue school system.

  5. CFM says:

    This is so typical of the corruption in DeKalb. Not to dissuade you, but to show there is some good by Nancy jester shining some light.

  6. snjz says:

    Do you want to see the 38 required revisions to DeKalb County School’ charter schools policy? Do you want to see the correspondence between Lou Erste and Steve Green? Email Lou Erste and request it: lerste@doe.k12.ga.us

  7. Thank you very much Nancy Jester. Am I correct in thinking that it was Stephen Green who made the decision to without the letter from the State?

  8. ShooShee says:

    “Please change the word “enforce” to “state” in the initial paragraph of the proposed DCSS Policy. …. It is not possible to enforce an expectation (a belief that someone will or should achieve something). … The use of “enforce” (to compel observance of or compliance with a law, rule, or obligation) promotes the image of DCSS as a top-down, compliance-oriented organization with a Compliance Culture (where success is measured by simply achieving requirements) rather than as an Achievement Culture (where success is measured by achieving high expectations for all students).”

    Exactly the kind of thing DCSS leaders do not get, nor quite possibly will ever get – or more likely – will ever choose to get. Regardless of anything they say, they are about one thing and one thing only: total and complete control of the $1.2 billion annual consolidated DCSS budget.

  9. ShooShee says:

    Interesting email response from our newly hired Superintendent, Dr. Green to the letter of proposed revisions from Lou Erste of the State DOE :

    “Lou,

    I will give your suggestions and advice due consideration and will proceed in a manner that is in the best interest of students and families the DCSD.

    Thank you.

    Regards,

    Steve”

    Wow. Just Wow.

  10. ShooShee says:

    And so then, what part of Lou’s response did Steve Green not understand?

    “Thank you, Steve. We are ready to help.

    Your response will be a good indicator of DCSS’s commitment to being a good charter partner.

    The State Superintendent and SBOE are as hopeful as we are that our renewed partnership will continue in a healthy fashion.

    Lou”

  11. ShooShee says:

    And the whole exchange culminates in the following power play showing us all that Dr. R. Stephen Green does not like being told what to do by anyone at the state or anywhere else. Again, wow.

    “Lou,

    I assume that the principle you have outlined below applies to all involved
    parties.

    Thus, your response will also be a “good indicator” of your willingness to be a “good charter partner” as well.

    Regards,

    Steve”

    ———

    And that’s followed by Lou’s attempt at a cheerful response:

    “Thus our commitment in my email and in my letter to assist you and your team in succeeding as a strong local charter authorizer and, concomitantly, as a good charter partner.

    Onward and upward!

    Lou”

    ———

    ok I’m done here. It’s starting to sound like a pre-K throw down.

  12. I would take anything Nancy Jester said with a grain of salt. She has an ax to grind and that’s fairly obvious, especially when to make her case she slanders a fellow Board member and then distorts the facts. Pretty low politics if you ask me. I’m all for Charter schools, but the Druid Hills Charter Cluster was a Cluster, well you know what. Parents were only allowed to vote in a predominantly white part of DeKalb and polls closed at 6pm and there was only 1 location. On top of that, the people behind it were the ones that would be in charge and the parents wouldn’t be able to vote on their Board. plus, that Board would be able to pick their replacements once their term was over. There was no outreach to all the impacted families. to top it all off the guy who was behind this is now the one in charge of trying to annex the area around Druid Hills High School into City of Atlanta, which would mean we DeKalb residents would have to give up a $55 million dollar school….FOR FREE! So, again, take anything Nancy Jester says with a grain of salt.

  13. Preachin' to the Choir says:

    No2Decatur, you’re funny. I will ignore the fact that you made a number of grammatical errors in your comment. The substance lacks any basis in reality. Mrs. Jester didn’t “slander a fellow board member”. (A) Mrs. Jester is not on the DeKalb Board of Education and so she has no “fellow board members” on the DeKalb BOE. And (B) Mrs. Jester did not say anyone’s name in her post. Mrs. Jester did point out actual facts that occurred so she has facts on her side. She appears to be one of the few elected officials that will actually support improving educations for minority students.

  14. […] week ago, the school board approved the district’s charter school policy in a 4-3 vote. Now, a blog by former school board member and now county Commissioner Nancy Jester raises questions about that […]

  15. […] Jester wrote in her blog that the school system administration withheld a letter sent by the Department of Education requesting revisions to the policy. […]

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