Archive for April, 2011

Is media to blame for DeKalb school chief candidate withdrawing?

DeKalb can’t seem to get a break. Now, the lead candidate for school chief has dropped out, apparently because the negotiations for salary and benefit came to light in the both the AJC and on local TV.

According to the AJC: Lillie Cox was negotiating with the DeKalb school system to become the next superintendent after the school board voted 6-3 to pursue a contract with her, the AJC reported Friday.

But on Saturday morning, Cox’s attorneys notified the school system that she was withdrawing from the negotiations, School Board Chairman Tom Bowen told the AJC Saturday evening. He said the exposure of the negotiations played into Cox’s decision.

The AJC reported Saturday morning that, according to a source, there was a sticking point in the talks: Cox, the superintendent of the 4,440-student Hickory Public Schools in North Carolina, wanted a 15-month severance package and a due process hearing before she could be terminated.

The article also disclosed details such as …

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Gwinnett PTA president on redistricting: No Santa Claus or courage

Here is a strong response from a Gwinnet parent to the school board’s redistricting vote this week. The parent is also a elementary school PTA president in Gwinnett.

Her comments address the new plan that moves nearly 200 fewer students from crowded campuses than originally proposed. The plan endorsed by the Gwinnett school board Thursday will transfer 505 Peachtree Ridge elementary, middle and high school students to open seats in Duluth neighborhood schools, which are under capacity. Originally, 716 students were to be moved.

According to the AJC story: The new plan does little to alleviate the student overflows housed in trailers of Peachtree Ridge’s most populated campuses. Nearly half of those students — 241 — are being moved from Mason Elementary, which is under capacity by 13. The busiest hallways will see the least change. Peachtree Ridge High, a school of 3,226 and over capacity by 426, stands to lose only 158 teens. Hull Middle School, which has a 2,409 enrollment, …

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Here is interesting video on unschooling in the extreme

With all the comments on unschooling from the interview I did with the author of new book on the movement, I decided to post this ABC “Good Morning America” clip on “radical” unschoolers. This interview spurred a lot of comment from unschoolers.

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DeKalb and Cobb appear ready to defy conventional wisdom in their school chief choices

Lillie Cox is negotiating for the DeKalb job.

Lillie Cox is negotiating for the DeKalb job.

The AJC is reporting that DeKalb is in negotiations with North Carolina superintendent Lillie Cox and Cobb is close to naming Samuel T. King, superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools, its next school chief.

I heard King speak at a panel earlier this week, and he seems like a data-driven leader who pays attention to detail. (That was the event where King told me that he was not at liberty to say whether he was a finalist in Cobb, which I took as a confirmation that he was in talks with Cobb since if he wasn’t, he would have been free to tell me that he was not..)

But news has been at work to confirm that King was talking with Cobb, and has now done so.

As for Cox, many of you thought she was a longshot in DeKalb because of her relative inexperience as a superintendent –18 months in the job in North Carolina — her youth — she is under 40 — and her race — she is white. For an AJC story on her requirements to come to DeKalb, …

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Unschooling: Homeschooling without the school

Among the ever expanding lexicon of alternative education is the trend toward unschooling.

Unschooling might best be defined as homeschooling without the school. It eschews standardization of education in favor of customization. Unschoolers don’t turn their kitchen tables into de facto classrooms, piled high with math textbooks, reading lists and maps of Asia.

Among the unschooling rules in Clark Aldrich's new book: Outdoors beats indoors. (AJC file)

Among the unschooling rules in Clark Aldrich's new book: Outdoors beats indoors. (AJC file)

Instead, unschoolers let their children take the lead, allowing them to decide whether they want to study algebra or Civil War history. The children determine whether they prefer to spend a day or a month playing chess or building a catapult.

Unschoolers shun tests, homework and work sheets, believing that a day spent skipping rocks and running barefoot in a meadow yields more science exploration than growing a plant on a windowsill.

Often described as “natural learning” or “independent learning,” unschooling and its belief in …

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Should family income play a role in redistricting? What should matter?

As metro areas grow, school lines shift. Several districts are in the midst of redistricting, and the process is rife with emotions, recriminations and strife.

Many homeowners contend that they bought their homes because of the local schools and rebel when they’re told five years later that their fifth grader will now be leaving friends and the familiar to journey to a new school.

My mailbox is full of e-mails from parents across metro Atlanta telling me about proposed redistrictings that they feel send their children to either a less successful school or a school where the kids won’t know anyone. Some of the parents have maps to show how their small area is being carved out to attend a new school while everyone around them is staying put.

They often report that the school board members carefully drew the maps so their own kids or grandkids or constituents have the least turmoil. (Such accusations are common in DeKalb where most changes are perceived to have a political …

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Emory students stage peaceful protest outside president’s office

UPDATE Thursday:  This morning, Emory spokesman David C. Payne said, “The sit-in ended around 8 p.m last evening when the students left the building. There are no planned meetings between the students and Dr. Wagner at this time although he has offered to meet with a small group of three to four representatives if they so choose.”

About two dozen Emory students protesting the treatment of subcontracted employees on the DeKalb campus are sitting outside the president’s office in an effort to confront him over what they deem the university’s indifference to the workers’ plight.

(Here is some history on the issue from the Emory Wheel and here is a piece by two students explaining their stand. And here is a response to a student about the allegations of worker mistreatment by the food service company from Emory President James Wagner.)

“These workers are not protected by the code of conduct of Emory…by an ethically engaged university. They have no avenue of redress,” said …

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Deal signs bill allowing him to oust APS board members

(Updated at 3:38 p.m. with comment from Sen. Fort)

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill today enabling him to oust members of the Atlanta Public Schools board if the embattled system doesn’t regain accreditation by July.

I was not a fan of this new law only because I find very little to recommend state government as a surrogate for the voters of Atlanta or any other community. I still think that if school boards are failing in their duties, voters ought to decide their fate, not the Legislature or governor.

These folks are far removed from the local scene and have enough state issues that cry out for their attention.  But I understand the motivation behind the bill, which is to protect children.

In response to the signing, Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said, “I am disappointed that the governor signed Senate Bill 79 into law. I believe the bill is legally tenuous in two ways. First, it violates the Voting Rights Act by nullifying tens of thousands of minority votes, and second, …

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Student: I was penalized for my “A’s” in dual enrollment classes

I received this letter from a dual enrolled high school senior who had the reverse situation of the grade calculation controversy in Cherokee County. In Cherokee, dual enrolled students enjoy an edge in class ranking computations. This student says she lost points because of her extensive dual enrollment courses.

Cherokee assigns a 100 for any college “A,” but applies an exact numerical grade for students in its high school AP classes. In this student’s system, high schools apparently decide for themselves what numerical value to assign to an “A”  from a college course, a fact that she says was never explained to her.

A dual enrolled “A”  translated to a much lower numerical equivalent than an “A” in an AP course, which lowered her GPA considerably.

Isn’t it time to standardize this whole process statewide so that every school treats these grades in the same way?

Also, class rankings seem more trouble than they are worth . Shouldn’t public schools follow the lead of many top …

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State Sen. Jason Carter: We can still grandfather in current HOPE recipients and protect them from increases

State Sen. Jason Carter

State Sen. Jason Carter

The political debate over HOPE and the changes made to the popular scholarship program by the GOP-controlled General Assembly continues. DeKalb Senate Democrat Jason Carter says that it is still possible to exempt current HOPE recipients from the cuts pushed through by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Here is Carter’s statement, which is in response to the Regents vote today to raise tuition:

The Board of Regents voted today to increase both tuition and fees for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year. With the recent changes to the HOPE Scholarship, that means that HOPE-eligible students and families will immediately be forced to shoulder roughly 13% of their tuition bill, plus the full cost of books and an additional $100-$350 in fees per semester.

“I am glad that the tuition increase was the smallest we have seen in awhile, but I am still convinced that the changes to HOPE will hurt the students who need HOPE most and result in fewer students who can afford to stay in …

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