In his introduction of DeKalb’s new school chief at a chamber event this morning, school board chair Gene Walker described Chery Atkinson as someone “who doesn’t go along to get along. She is small in stature, but huge in determination and commitment. Dr. Atkinson believes in what she is doing. It pours out of her. I am proud to work with this lady.”
Atkinson began her State of the System address with her usual theme: Victory.
“Victory is what we will have in every classroom,” she said.
After a very warm description of each board member, Atkinson praised them for their support. She then introduced her “A team,” the staff members who lead departments and serve as her cabinet.
She reiterated her goals for the school system, saying how community input in her first 90 day listening tour led to the addition of “safe and orderly schools” to the priority list.
Here are highlights from her State of the System address: (She mentioned plans to move to a balanced calendar, which we have in Decatur. I expect there will be some push back as many parents don’t like the abbreviated summer and the Aug. 1 back-to-school date. In fact, Cobb’s balanced calendar only lasted one year because of parental protests.)
“Education is not one of those absolute sciences . You have to monitor it to make changes.”
She said the system is working on a revised curriculum, the first draft of which will be shared in May for feedback.
“We will end social promotion and set higher standards for all students. You don’t end social promotion overnight because you can kill off some children. It is a process.”
She called for early intervention, saying, “The greatest part of the achievement gap is before we see children in kindergarten.”
“We will implement a balanced calendar so our children don’t spend so much time away from the learning environment in the summer. Many of them don’t have anything to occupy their time. That is critical time we are losing.”
“We will invest in our teachers and leaders. A weekly early release will allow teachers to have that time to make good instructional decisions based on that data. We have the talent. We just need to hone it, support it and develop it.”
She called for consequences and reward for student behaviors. “Our children learn based on what we give them and what we show them.”
She called for more school options for “children who don’t fit in a traditional setting. One size does not fit all. It never has.”
“There are some areas that we need zero tolerance. There are some things that will not be tolerated in school. Period.”
“We need a central office. We cannot operate without a central office. We need people that understand that we are going to be about servant leadership. We need people that understand and are willing to go that extra mile. I will tell you I will accept nothing less.”
“We will invest in e-technology for our schools.”
Saying that even toddlers can operate iPhones now and that they are native to the world of technology, Atkinson said, “We cripple them if we do not understand that. Teachers must have instruction in technology and technology at their fingertips. Students must have iPads and e-books. These are the tools of today.”
“Our core business is not building buildings. It is about educating children.”
Her summation of DeKalb: “It is not as bad as it has been, but is certainly not as good as it can be.”
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog