In 2005, the DeKalb school board appointed a blue ribbon task force to recommend the future direction of the Fernbank Science Center. The final report delivered to the district in 2006 apparently never led to any real action on anyone’s part.
The charge to the task force from then school chief Crawford Lewis was to “…review Fernbank’s programs, services and facilities along with the needs of all the stakeholders in our community…”
A year later, the task force reported back to the school board that it was stymied in its efforts and could not create that future blueprint. (For a strong view on keeping Fernbank open, read this post.)
Here is the summary letter from Sally Sears, who was chair of the executive committee of the Blue Ribbon Future of Fernbank Committee. As you read this letter, you get a better sense of why the DeKalb school board is now giving serious consideration to closing Fernbank.
Here is the summary letter:
This final report contains strong recommendations. The two dozen people who sat down to this job almost exactly a year ago share many of Fernbank’s admirable characteristics. They are thorough, committed, bright and questioning. Yet the job of defining the future of this wonderful place was complex. We did not succeed in creating a blueprint for its future. It frustrated many of us. We found:
•The Science Center critically needs attention, oversight and support from school administrators and the public.
•We struggle to find basic documents about the Science Center’s finances, lease agreements and teaching arrangements. The methods of record keeping and the records themselves seem opaque.
•The talent and dedication of the faculty is dimmed by conflicting missions and leadership.
We support several ideas better to align the Science Center with your goal of improving science education throughout Premier DeKalb County Schools. The immediate changes to polish the gem that is Fernbank include:
•A dramatic increase in the number of students offered the premiere class, Scientific Tools and Techniques, for school year 2006-2007, to demonstrate commitment to greater access and revamping middle school science teaching.
•Use technology in sharing terrific teaching through the system.
•Require mastery of science before promoting students.
The Subcommittee working on programming and instruction finds many nagging problems at Fernbank Science Center consistent with lack of funding, conflicting missions and oversight. Maintenance, the future of the forest, bus schedules, and poor follow-through from classroom teachers figure in the problems we found.
But perhaps most discouraging was our difficulty clarifying and evaluating what Fernbank Science Center actually does, and who its target populations are.
The remaining three subcommittees struggled with similar issues. They did not choose to create reports.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog