Archive for December, 2012

Fulton school chief: Reflections on Newtown, school safety, balance and life

Robert Avossa

Robert Avossa

Here is a piece by Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa on the tragedy in Newtown:

By Robert Avossa

The recent events in Connecticut have shaken us all, making us realize just how precious a young life is and how we have a great responsibility to protect it. This tragedy is a parent’s and an educator’s worst nightmare.

While parents have always carefully dropped their children off at school or to the bus stop, they may now hesitate, taking one last moment to hug or kiss their child before they send him or her along the way. School employees are now more alert and aware of unusual people and sounds, and law enforcement officers and first responders are extra watchful in protecting those they serve.

Though national headlines have alarmed us, we should be reminded that school violence of this magnitude is very rare. It’s natural to question school safety in the aftermath of such a terrible tragedy, but the reality is that our schools are still one of the safest …

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Principals oppose efforts to allow them to carry guns in response to Newtown

A joint statement from the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals on allowing principals and teachers to carry guns in school:

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we all feel a desperate need to honor the memories of the victims and take steps to prevent such horror from happening again. In that spirit, many well-meaning policymakers are proposing to allow teachers and principals to carry firearms in school. As the professional organization for our nation’s principals, we strongly oppose such policies.

A principal’s first responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment. To be effective, schools must be perceived as safe havens where students want to be. The presence of armed school officials on campus conveys the opposite message to students and to the local community.

Is the school really safe, a parent might wonder, if the principal feels that he …

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DeKalb teachers also have questions about salary

DeKalb teachers also sent me some money questions, which I directed to the state Department of Education. State responses are in bold

Q: DeKalb’s “fiscal crisis” has us teachers talking. And no one — from administrators in the building to the Georgia Association of Educators representative — seems to know what happens if DeKalb Schools can’t make payroll. Some teachers seem to think the state would honor our salaries.

A: The state can’t pay a school district beyond what they receive at the beginning of each fiscal year budget and the supplemental budget.

Q: Others assume that the state’s required number of instructional days and our signed contracts would prevent the system from ending the year early and furloughing even more days.

A: Because contracts are done at the local level and are unique to each district, you would want to talk to the DeKalb Board Attorney about this one. I’m not sure if their contracts allow changes in the middle of the year.

–From Maureen Downey, for …

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ACLU takes on single sex classrooms. Is this a worthwhile fight?

The ACLU is going after two school districts for single-sex classrooms.

Having gone to a single-sex Catholic high school, I see a few benefits to all girl or all boy classes, although most research shows no compelling academic rationale.

As the National Association for Single Sex Public Education notes, the United States Department of Education published regulations governing single-sex education in public schools in 2006. The association has a good primer on legal issues, including updates from two court decisions.

According to the association:

The new regulations allow coeducational public schools (elementary and secondary schools) to offer single-sex classrooms, provided that the schools:

1) provide a rationale for offering a single-gender class in that subject. A variety of rationales are acceptable, e.g. if very few girls have taken computer science in the past, the school could offer a girls-only computer science class;
2) provide a coeducational class in the same …

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APS: Change in pay schedule appears to leave staff a paycheck short for 2012. CFO explains why.

Updated at 2:11 p.m: Here is a very detailed response from APS board member Courtney English. Much thanks, Maureen

Hope all is well. Below is an explanation of the pay day change. We have received many questions on this issue and our CFO explains it as follows:

The change in pay dates does not cause an employee to lose an entire pay period. Historically, pay was received five days after the close of a pay period, with two exceptions. First, if the pay date (fifth day) was on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, we moved the pay date forward to the work day preceding the scheduled pay date. Second, because the holiday work schedule for Winter Break abuts the scheduled pay date of January 5th, we moved the pay date for the December 16-31 pay period forward so it is distributed prior to the close of the calendar year.

With the transition in pay dates that began in August, we now are scheduled to receive our pay 15 days after the close of the pay period. As was the case before, …

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Should Dunwoody have its own schools? Should cities be allowed to break from county systems?

Should communities be permitted to revolt against their county school systems and create their own school districts?

Legally, it would likely require a change to the state Constitution, which now forbids any new independent school systems.  (I added the text of the state Constitution to a comment that I made below. Some of you are questioning the existence of city school systems such as Decatur and Dalton, but those systems predate the constitutional prohibition.)

But we may see a push for such a change in the wake of DeKalb’s problems with SACS.

Acccording to the AJC:

Mike Davis, the mayor of Dunwoody, just wants out.

Davis said he believes nearly all Dunwoody residents want to separate from the DeKalb school system, and it’s something his city council is openly discussing. They are likely to ask state lawmakers in January for a measure — probably involving an amendment to the state constitution — that would let cities without school systems create their own.

“I think …

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Michigan governor vetoes concealed weapons in schools

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a controversial bill today that would have allowed gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools, day care centers, churches and stadiums.

Senate Bill 59 permitted gun owners who receive additional hours of training to carry their weapons in formerly gun-free areas. We discussed the bill on the blog as it generated strong opposition from school boards and teachers’ groups, including the American Federation of Teachers.

“Firearms have absolutely no place in our schools—the Dec. 14th tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is a chilling and heartbreaking reminder of this. Twenty innocent young children have been robbed of their lives, many shot multiple times. Six public servants, who were trying to save these children, were murdered in an environment that should be considered a safe sanctuary for students, educators and school visitors,” wrote Randi Weingarten, AFT president, and David Hecker, president, …

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A local parent of a mentally ill child says: “Change our mental health system now before more blood is shed.”

In response to Newtown, a local parent sent this letter about her struggles getting help for her mentally ill son. At the parent’s request, I am not using any names:

The Sandy Hook tragedy should be a clear indication that our mental health system needs a complete overhaul. My husband and I adopted a child six years ago. We expected joy and love from our adopted child, but instead we have faced years of mental illness filled with rages and violence.

We have turned to psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and our local school for help to no avail. I will give you a few examples so you will understand our situation. This past spring we endured hours of extreme raging and violence every day to the point where my biological son and I would have to hide in a closet. We made the difficult decision to have our son committed to Peachford Hospital. Within a week, he was home and the raging began again within 24 hours.

When I called the doctor and asked him how he could send …

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Noah Pozner of Newtown: Eulogy for a much loved and missed little boy

One of the first eulogies of the Newtown shooting victims, courtesy of the Associated Press.

A message read at the funeral of 6-year-old Noah Pozner by his uncle Alexis Haller, of Woodinville, Wash.:

On Friday, Dec. 14, we tragically lost a most beloved member of our family. Noah was a 6-year-old little boy, and he was so dear to all of our hearts.

Words cannot express the unfathomable loss we feel.

Noah was a wonderful son and a loving brother. He was kind, caring, smart, funny, and sometimes even a little mischievous. He liked to tell his sisters that he worked in a taco factory; when they asked him how he got to work, he would give them a funny look as if to say he knew something that they didn’t.

Noah was a little kid. He loved animals, video games and Mario Brothers. He was already a very good reader, and had just bought a Ninjago book at a book fair that he was really excited about reading. He was also very excited about going to a birthday party he had been …

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DeKalb on probation: Official statements from both sides

Here is the official statement from SACS on DeKalb’s probation:

Here is the report.

The AdvancED Accreditation Commission voted to place the DeKalb County School District on Accredited Probation, effective immediately, after an investigative evaluation conducted on October 17-19 by an AdvancED Special Review Team found the DeKalb County School District in violation of the AdvancED Standards for Accreditation.

“Based on a comprehensive investigation by the Special Review Team, there is significant and irrefutable evidence that the DeKalb County School District is in a state of conflict and chaos,” stated Dr. Mark Elgart, President and CEO, AdvancED. “The system over the past decade has struggled with consistent and effective governance. This failure to govern effectively has resulted in a decline in student performance, financial mismanagement, and lack of integrity and ethics in recruiting, appointing and evaluating personnel at all levels of the school system,” said …

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