Archive for February, 2012

School chiefs official: The “rest of the story” on charter school amendment battle

Herbert W. Garrett is executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association and a former principal in Marietta and superintendent of Jefferson City schools and of the Henry County schools.

Here is Garrett’s response to the ongoing and passionate charter school amendment debate. The amendment, which lost last week in the House by 10 votes, is expected to come up for a reconsideration this week. You can read a piece in favor of the amendment by former Fulton Commission Chair Michael Lomax here.

By Herbert W. Garrett

Legendary commentator Paul Harvey always spoke of “the rest of the story.” Get the rest, he told his millions of listeners, and you get the whole story.

The whole story has proven hard to get on the current charter schools bill.

The issue is simple: Should Georgia voters be asked to approve a constitutional change this November? That change would result in the revival of a now-defunct, Atlanta-based commission of political appointees empowered to …

Continue reading School chiefs official: The “rest of the story” on charter school amendment battle »

Is suspension and alternative school too stiff a penalty for pretending oregano was pot?

An Italian friend celebrated for his culinary agility used to shake oregano on everything, telling me, “Never fear the spice.”  He might reconsider that advice if he heard about the 13-year-old North Carolina student handed a 55-day suspension for bringing a bag of oregano to school and telling classmates it was marijuana.

The family of the eighth-grader at Cuthbertson Middle School is considering a lawsuit because of a school decision to add 45 more days to the original 10-day suspension that the boy received. The family has a lawyer from the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit that defends civil liberties, human rights and religious liberty.

I’ve discussed this story with several co-workers and friends. Most concur that the boy deserved to be punished for his stupid prank, but there was  debate over whether 10 days was too extreme, never mind 45 more days out of class in an alternative school.

Given all the warnings to students about drugs, including all the drug-free zone …

Continue reading Is suspension and alternative school too stiff a penalty for pretending oregano was pot? »

Murder trial of UVA lacrosse player highlights rampant alcohol abuse on our college campuses

Yeardley Love (AJC File)

Yeardley Love (AJC File)

If you’ve been following the trial of George Huguely V, the University of Virginia lacrosse star accused of the beating death of his girlfriend and fellow UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love, you probably have read the testimony about how drunk he was and how much drinking was part of the campus scene.

The Baltimore Sun has a good piece addressing this issue, noting that Huguely “had been arrested twice for drinking-related infractions, one of them violent, in his early 20s. And he admits to consuming at least 15 drinks — and likely had more, witnesses said — the day he confronted Yeardley Love at her off-campus apartment in 2010, assaulting her so severely she later died, according to prosecutors.”

Many of you will maintain that drinking has always been common in college, but the research shows a rise in binge drinking and alcohol-related deaths of young people. According to alcohol surveys and government data, 1,700 college students die in …

Continue reading Murder trial of UVA lacrosse player highlights rampant alcohol abuse on our college campuses »

HOPE redesign benefits affluent Atlanta area grads. Should we give the most to those who have the most?

(AJC/file photo)

All of the 15 high schools graduating the most Zell Miller scholars are within about 45 miles of Atlanta.(AJC/file photo)

The day is still early, but I am already getting e-mails from folks about today’s AJC analysis of the new Zell Miller Scholarships created by Gov. Nathan Deal last year when he retooled HOPE.

The new scholarship — which only goes to college students who had high marks and high SAT scores in high school“favors those students who live in Atlanta’s affluent suburbs,” according to the AJC analysis. (The paper relied on Open Record requests to get the data)

The AJC reports:

● Schools in the five most populous metro Atlanta counties — Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton and Gwinnett — graduated almost half of the students eligible for the Zell Miller award. The proportion tipped beyond when a smaller metro county, Forsyth, was added, even though those six counties account for just one-third of the state’s high school seniors.

● Metro Atlanta students from …

Continue reading HOPE redesign benefits affluent Atlanta area grads. Should we give the most to those who have the most? »

UNCF president and former Fulton chair Michael Lomax: Approve charter school amendment

Dr. Michael Lomax

Dr. Michael Lomax

Longtime Georgians will remember Michael Lomax, now president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, as the former chair of the Fulton County Commission, the first African-American to hold the post, and as a two-time candidate for mayor of Atlanta.

In 1997, Dr. Lomax became president of Dillard University in New Orleans where he served for seven years. Dr. Lomax also taught literature at Morehouse College,  Spelman College, Emory University (from which he earned his doctorate) and Georgia Tech.

He has written an op-ed on the stalled charter school amendment.

By Michael Lomax

Think of this as an open letter from a Georgian (and a 12-year chair of the Fulton County Commissioners) who thinks that our highest long-term priority has to be making sure that our children get the education they need to go to and complete college.

I am president and CEO of UNCF (United Negro College Fund). We are committed to increasing the number of Americans, and African …

Continue reading UNCF president and former Fulton chair Michael Lomax: Approve charter school amendment »

Cherokee school chief: Lawmakers are no friends of county’s highly rated school system

Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo (Cherokee schools)

Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo (Cherokee schools)

The gloves are off in the Legislature where lawmakers are going after a school district and board they perceive as hostile to charter schools.

What’s surprising to me is that they are going after Cherokee, a system that is among the state’s high performers and where the majority of parents would probably express confidence in the schools. That does not mean all parents are happy, but Cherokee has an enviable record of achievement.

House Bill 978 would realign the Cherokee county school board and effectively remove the elected school board chair and vice chair, according to the Cherokee Tribune. Now, the school board has seven members elected county-wide and members elect their own chair and vice chair.

An angry Cherokee Superintendent Frank R. Petruzielo is firing back at lawmakers, and he is not mincing his words about what he deems their lack of support for the schools and their efforts to undermine them:

Cherokee County …

Continue reading Cherokee school chief: Lawmakers are no friends of county’s highly rated school system »

DeKalb school board mess: A quick fix by Legislature gone wrong. Is anyone surprised?

Updated Sunday:

The Legislature has a fondness for the quick fix as demonstrated by its hasty vote last year to trim the nine-person DeKalb school board to seven members or fewer.

Concerned about civility and cooperation on the historically raucous DeKalb board, the lawmakers believed they could foster more efficiency by mandating fewer members. Instead, Senate Bill 79 has sparked acrimony and accusations.

In the metro area, only the DeKalb, Clayton and Atlanta school boards have nine members, and each has faced challenges in recent years with governance and with complying with accreditation standards. DeKalb had had a seven-member board, but expanded to nine members in 2001.

The unanswered question in this debate is whether the school board stumbled because it had nine members or nine members who simply couldn’t coalesce.

While a state commission on school board excellence recommended school boards have no more than seven members, I am not sure that seven people can’t …

Continue reading DeKalb school board mess: A quick fix by Legislature gone wrong. Is anyone surprised? »

State approves class size waivers again. Larger classes and fewer teachers reflect financial free fall.

The AJC is reporting that the state school board waived class size requirements yet again, expecting that next school year may be the worst yet for financially strapped local systems.

A combination of state cuts, $1 billion this year, and plummeting property taxes, ongoing fallout from the housing collapse, will add to the financial stresses facing systems next year.

According to the AJC: This is an excerpt. Please read entire story.

On Thursday, the state school board unanimously approved extending the waiver for larger classes through the next school year. For students and parents, this could mean more students in some classrooms and fewer teachers.

Maximum class size requirements vary. For instance, state law says a regular kindergarten class should have no more than 18 students, while a fine arts or foreign language class in grades 6-8 can have 33 students. In addition to the state waiver, school systems also have permission from lawmakers to establish class size …

Continue reading State approves class size waivers again. Larger classes and fewer teachers reflect financial free fall. »

New review of Georgia charter schools finds they don’t outperform traditional public schools

A new report released Wednesday by the state Department of Education shows that charter schools in Georgia trail the performance of traditional public school on the critical AYP measure.

The report will likely tone down the praise being heaped on charter schools in the Legislature, which is considering a constitutional amendment to allow the state to approve charters over the objections of local school boards.

In promoting the amendment to wary colleagues, some lawmakers have contended that charter schools outperform traditional public schools in the state. Not so, according to the in-depth annual review of charter school achievement by DOE.

According to DOE, 70 percent of charter schools made AYP or adequate yearly progress last year. In comparison, 73 percent of traditional public schools made AYP.

In one of the most telling lines, the 2010-2011 DOE report concludes, “The general trend of Georgia charter school performance mirrors the trend of traditional public school …

Continue reading New review of Georgia charter schools finds they don’t outperform traditional public schools »

Obama proposes $5 billion to reform and improve teaching

From the White House:

The Obama Administration’s 2013 proposed budget includes a new $5 billion competitive program to challenge states and districts to work with teachers, unions, colleges of education and other stakeholders to comprehensively reform the field of teaching. The proposal touches on every phase of teaching from training and tenure to compensation and career opportunities.

Today, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will hold a town hall meeting with teachers to launch the RESPECT Project, a national conversation led by active classroom teachers working temporarily for the Department to help inform the administration’s proposal and the broader effort to reform teaching. RESPECT is an acronym that stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching.

“Our goal is to work with teachers and principals in rebuilding their profession and to elevate the teacher voice in federal, state and local education policy. Our larger goal …

Continue reading Obama proposes $5 billion to reform and improve teaching »