Charter schools commission rises from the ashes with familiar faces

The State Board of Education approved seven state Charter Schools Commission members, several of whom were members prior to the state Supreme Court disbanding the commission in 2011 and the voters resurrecting it with their endorsement of a constitutional amendment in November.

The commission members are appointed by the state Board of Education based on two recommendations for each open seat from the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker.

“I am pleased to see that the members of the Charter Schools Commission represent a broad cross section of backgrounds and expertise in business, education, non-profits, and government,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “I know they will take their duty of reviewing charter school petitions and approving high quality charter schools seriously, and I look forward to working with them to improve student learning and achievement across Georgia.”

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle said, “Strengthening and reforming the way we educate our children has long been a passion of mine, which is why I have consistently supported Charter Schools in Georgia,”

House Speaker David Ralston said, “When Georgians voted to approve the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, they chose to set Georgia on a path that would allow for the creation of additional educational opportunities for students in our state and greater parental involvement.”

The new State Charter Schools Commission members are:

Gov. Deal’s Nominations

Dr. Charles Knapp

Dr. Knapp is an economist and educator. He is the President Emeritus of the University of Georgia, having served as the President of the University of Georgia from 1987 to 1997. Dr. Knapp served as President of the Aspen Institute from 1997 to 1999. From 2005 to 2011, he was Chairman of the Board of the East Lake Foundation, the organization responsible for the highly successful community redevelopment project in Southeast Atlanta. He currently serves on the boards of Aflac, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Dr. Knapp received his B.S. degree, with honors and distinction, from Iowa State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Dr. Knapp previously served on the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. He and his wife Lynne live in Big Canoe, Georgia.

Jennifer Rippner

Ms. Rippner is an attorney and has spent her career working in education policy. She currently serves as a consultant for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and as a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Georgia where she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education. Ms. Rippner received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Florida. She previously worked as a Senior Policy and Legal Advisor at Education Counsel, LLC; as Education Policy Advisor to Governor Sonny Perdue and Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement; Charter Schools Program Manager for the Georgia Department of Education and Director of the Charter School Accountability Center at Florida State University. Ms. Rippner also served as the director of a charter school in Micanopy, Florida. She previously served as Chair of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. She resides in Acworth, Georgia.

Tony Lowden

Mr. Tony Lowden is the Executive Director of STONE Academy, an after-school enrichment program that serves at-risk children in the Macon-Bibb County area. He also serves as a youth pastor at Lundy Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Mr. Lowden earned his B.A. degree in Government and Economics from the University of Southern California and his M.Div. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served in numerous civic organizations in the Macon-Bibb area, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development Board and the Board of Directors for the Center for Racial Understanding. He was a member of Leadership Georgia’s 2011 Class. He lives in Macon, Georgia.

Lt. Governor Cagle’s Nominations

Tom Lewis

Mr. Lewis has years of experience in state government, economic development and currently in his position as Senior Vice President for External Affairs with Georgia State University. His previous service on the former charter schools commission will serve him well if appointed. As Senior Vice President for External Affairs, Tom Lewis provides Georgia State University with leadership and direction in the areas of government and corporate relations, and serves as the university liaison to federal, state and local governments. He has led Georgia State to new levels of public awareness by directing a comprehensive effort to remake the university’s identity and communicate its unique urban mission. In his twenty-two years as vice president and senior vice president, he has advanced the university’s legislative agenda, strengthened relations with alumni, engineered an expansive marketing effort and improved Georgia State’s internal and external communications. Tom came to Georgia State in 1991 from the Office of Governor Joe Frank Harris, where he served as Chief of Staff. Prior to joining the governor’s staff, Tom served as executive vice president of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce (1978-1983), where he guided economic development during a critical period of the county’s growth; and executive director of the Georgia Franchise Practices Commission (1974-1978), where he developed new standards to regulate this fast-growing industry.

Paul W. Williams

Mr. Williams has more than thirty years of financial experience working with companies in metro and rural Georgia, including his current service as Chief Financial Officer of Brickstream Corporation, and prior CFO and other executive positions at Harvest Advisors, Aldridge, Riverbrooke Capital Partners, Fairfield Financial Services, Colony Management Services, Community Bancshares, Bank Corporation of Georgia, Deloach & Company, and Howard, Moore & McDuffie. He is a licensed CPA, a former board member of the Georgia Society of CPAs, and former adjunct professor of accounting at Mercer University. Paul is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the J. M. Tull School of Accounting from the University of Georgia and also a graduate of Middle Georgia College. Paul’s involvement with Georgia’s 4-H program and love of public education will serve him well if appointed as a member of the charter schools commission.

Speaker Ralston’s Nominations

Jose R. Perez

Mr. Perez served on the State Board of Education as the 7th Congressional District representative from 2004 to 2011. During those years of distinguished service, he honed his skills as a state-level charter authorizer as a member of the Charter Committee and helped greatly in formulating the current approval processes which prepares him well for service as a State Charter Schools Commission member. Mr. Perez is the President of Target Market Trends, Inc. (TMT), a Peachtree Corners, GA business consulting firm that helps clients develop market and business strategies that target market trends to increase earnings using fact-based information to leverage the firm’s assets. Mr. Perez was born in Havana, Cuba, and his parents sent him to live with his grandparents in Key West, Florida at the age of 12. He and his wife Yolanda have three children who attended the Norcross Cluster of Gwinnett County Public Schools and all graduated from the University of Georgia. Mr. Perez has an M.A. in Economics from Florida Atlantic University, and strongly believes that knowledge and determination are the keys to success.

James E. Hogg

With more than 30 years in public education at every level from teacher to principal to RESA administrator to state department of education to technical college director, Jimmy’s career demonstrates a deep commitment to working to achieve what is best for students. His experience as Interim Director for Charter Schools at the Georgia Department of Education, as well as his work with the Walton County Career Academy in his role as Athens Technical College Walton Campus Director, prepare him well for involvement in the creation of high quality charter schools as a state-level charter authorizer.

43 comments Add your comment

Astropig

January 18th, 2013
10:01 am

An accomplished group. They’ve been around long enough to ignore the sniping from the education mafia. Viva charter schools!

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 18th, 2013
10:01 am

One teacher. One teacher. This commission is too absurd for words.

Tim

January 18th, 2013
10:14 am

WOW Cindy, Dr. Knapp and Mr. Hogg, that makes two. Maybe college professors don’t count as teachers in your world. The list looks great to me, a diverse group with private and public sector backgrounds.

n

January 18th, 2013
10:21 am

This commission exists to line the pockets of the privateers and their political cronies, period.

Private Citizen

January 18th, 2013
10:32 am

Some perspective questions:

What percentage of Georgia K-12 student attend:
-traditional government schools, subsets: general ed., and by-application performance academies.
-home school
-charter school
-private school
__________________

Without people’s names per se, what are the universities attended and degrees attained by various persons in A) charter system, B) government system. This is an ambitious concept to include state level persons, districts superintendents, school administration, principals and assistant principals.

The point is, does charter school culture contain for-profit school “leadership” degrees and the like? What is the formal degrees attained per the persons in state leadership positions? i.e University of West Georgia, Georgia State University vs. “Argosy” and “Phoenix” and such. To wit: the difference in these schools is that at the brick and mortar universities, there is scholarship, therefore competence, performed by the faculty.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 18th, 2013
11:00 am

My bad, Tim. I meant to say, one K-12 teacher.

Catlady

January 18th, 2013
11:06 am

Ms. Downey, how many of the earlier-Commission approved charter schools are meeting their targets? How many have been closed? Would like an idea of how “successful” the earlier iteration of the Commission was.

Catlady

January 18th, 2013
11:10 am

Tim, how many charter colleges and universities do you know of?

chewyandrw

January 18th, 2013
11:28 am

Cindy, I am sure they didn’t just want to nominate teachers to provide expertise in a number of different areas that also relate to education. Just because one is not a teacher does not mean they do not value education, know how education works, or will under represent educators. A member with lots of financial experience, one with experience working with after school programs, a former university president, and an attorney that works specifically in educational matters are not bad appointments. Charter schools typically have much better students that are prepared for college and the workforce than standard public schools and this list of appointments has a great blend and mixture to ensure that success in continued.

d

January 18th, 2013
11:36 am

So…. if these people make poor decisions, who do we get to vote out? Oh, yeah, right…. these people can override the people I actually vote for. Oh, and almost 30% of the commission is made up of people nominated by someone I can’t even vote for. This is beyond messed up that the state voted for this type of bureaucracy.

d

January 18th, 2013
11:38 am

Oh, just to clarify…. My last post wasn’t a rant against charters. I’m fine with charters as long as they’re approved by people I can vote against when they make decisions I don’t like.

d

January 18th, 2013
11:48 am

@chewy – can you provide data to back up your claim that charter students are better prepared? Last data I saw is that only 17% (give or take) rank higher than traditional public schools. The other 83% of charters perform no better or even worse than our traditional schools.

Hey Tim...

January 18th, 2013
11:50 am

FYI, Cindy Lutenbacher IS a college professor…

Prof

January 18th, 2013
11:51 am

A University president is not a professor. “Educator” can mean one who is involved in education, as a University president would be. And Catlady’s 11:10 am question seems relevant here.

Astropig

January 18th, 2013
11:58 am

All of you people bellyaching are just mad because they’re not nominating YOUR cronies. Earth to educrats-The Guv and the other lawmakers know that you are opposed to everything they stand for. Why would they appoint your lapdogs to sabotage this board ? You people are too dense to know that you only have one party working for you in the capitol.(And they’re in long term eclipse)

joe knows

January 18th, 2013
12:01 pm

What is the average age 70? Lots of help to mold the future of education in Georgia.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 18th, 2013
12:10 pm

Sorry, Chewyandrw, I guess I’ve been at this whole thing too long– In theory, I agree with you. The reality in the past decade or two has proved abysmally otherwise. I’m sure that Deal, Cagle, and Ralston could choose scores of teachers who would be much worse choices than these, but the severe lack of respect for the voices of savvy and profoundly professional teachers is a constant in these days of Michelle Rhee, Arnie Duncan, and ilk.
The charter amendment, supported by megabucks from ALEC and others with monster megabucks to make from for-profit adventures in “education,” was/is really about having one small body to control rather than local boards across the state to control. The millions spent to misinform the public about the amendment was a terrific investment by ALEC, et al. when one considers how much less they’ll have to spend to buy just one charter commission…

CharterStarter, Too

January 18th, 2013
12:20 pm

I won’t comment on the list one way or the other as far as the individuals go. What I WILL say is to take a look at the respective backgrounds of those serving on your local school boards. As elected officials, there is never a guarantee that these boards will have any experience in K-12 education (or high ed. for that matter), or specific business skills necessary to provide proper oversight and policy development for the business operations of a district.

And=y board/commission should be balanced with respect to skill set for its respective sector. Education is not solely instruction – instructional decisions are generally made by those with more specific expertise. That is a different skillset needed than for oversight of academic outcomes. Managing state dollars, having individuals with experience managing large education entities and financial expertise is critical. And of course, charters exist within a regulatory and legal environment, too, so having individuals with experience in state and federal education laws (or laws in general) is critical.

It does appear that this Commission has a broad array of backgrounds and experiences – ALL of which are relevant to proper oversight and approval of public charter schools.

Catlady

January 18th, 2013
3:28 pm

Well, I am an already- doctorate holder from the very program Ms. Rippner is in. I believe Dr. Knapp is an adjunct in that program.

Unlike Ms. Rippner, I have extensive (30 years plus) K-12 teaching experience to go with that doctorate.

To be clear, we need folks with real, recent, K-12 experience, in the trenches. But Mr. Deal, especially, doesn’t have a rep of looking too far.

Prof

January 18th, 2013
3:53 pm

@ Catlady. I notice that Ms. Rippner doesn’t yet have that doctorate, for she is a graduate student. And an adjunct is a part-time, not a full-time faculty member.

Oh, how I wish you were one of those serving on this commission! You would ask the right questions.

yellowdog

January 18th, 2013
6:19 pm

tell me there are no qualified women profs or teachers that could have been named?
; this white male thing is getting out of hand; yet again the way the present administration (governor) works; no women in positions that matter.

Tim

January 18th, 2013
8:01 pm

CatLady, from Webster: Professor is defined as a : a faculty member of the highest academic rank at an institution of higher education. b : a teacher at a university, college, or sometimes secondary school.

Yellow Dog: Mr. Lowden is African-American and Mr. Perez is Hispanic. Almost 30% of the board is made up of individuals who are not part of what you call “this white male thing”.

Prof: Since Webster and I agree that professors are teachers, you may be surprised to hear that Dr. Knapp was a teacher (Professor) at the Univ. of Texas, Tulane, and Georgia Washington Univ. Get this, he served in Washington DC under the Carter Administration so we could assume he was even a DEMOCRAT.

The United States Secretary of Education, Mr. Duncan, has never taught in a classroom. Not a college nor K-12, public or private, not even a Pre-K class. If our President doesn’t think a teacher should run the Department of Education then I believe that our 30% should make educators across the state extremely happy.

May 7, 2012: In a proclamation released by the White House today, Obama said charter schools for years “have brought new ideas to the work of educating our sons and daughters.”
“Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country,” he said in a release.

Maybe if some of the Dekalb County school board members, voted on by the people, are relieved from their duties, they can be placed on future Charter School boards. Sorry to say none of the former Clayton County school board members that cost their county their accreditation made this list, not even the former teacher that was on that board.

Tim

January 18th, 2013
8:11 pm

Yellow Dog: Sorry, I missed the fact we can assume Jennifer is a female. Three out of seven are not “white males”, I may have to vote to re-elect Deal yet, OK just kidding.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 18th, 2013
9:29 pm

Private Citizen makes a valid point worth addressing: “The point is, does charter school culture contain for-profit school ‘leadership’ degrees and the like? What is the formal degrees attained per the persons in state leadership positions? i.e University of West Georgia, Georgia State University vs. ‘Argosy’ and ‘Phoenix’ and such. To wit: the difference in these schools is that at the brick and mortar universities, there is scholarship, therefore competence, performed by the faculty.”

When hiring for my charter school, I take a look at where candidates’ credentials come from. I did the same when I hired staff for brick and mortar district schools where I’ve worked. I’ve seen an awful lot of for-profit private institution degrees listed on candidates’ resumes. They don’t impress me. I have to say that some school districts do hire heavily based on letters following someone’s name, without regard to where those letters came from. Although you may see some of it in charter school, it’s not a “charter school thing” that pervades the charter world here in Georgia.

Brian

January 19th, 2013
2:28 am

What I don’t understand is if charter schools are ‘better’ or even ‘just different’ then why can’t all public schools in Georgia have the same ‘freedom’ to educate students using a charter model? The business model of charter schools which includes freedom in the selection of raw materials (students/parents who make the cut), process quality control (comply/perform to expectations or you’re sent back to public school) and of course, operational freedom from suffocating regulations that restrict the ability to develop and provide a market driven quality product with top notch ‘customer support’.
That being said, I have no problem with the idea of charter schools, but what I do have a problem with is the political favoritism they are granted, especially in the form of scholarships (disguised as tax rebates and/or exemptions) which takes GA tax money from the state education budget. Also why are we paying Florida based companies to educate Georgia children?
As an earlier post stated, same faces, same political games. We should demand more for our children and from our state leaders.

bootney farnsworth

January 19th, 2013
10:15 am

its time to just shut education down completely in Georgia.

it is not, and has not been for a long time, about educating Georgians. its about social engineering, political pandering, and scoring points

bootney farnsworth

January 19th, 2013
10:20 am

this commission is basically the same as a bunch of insurance executives with a single physician’s assistant making decisions on how to perform heart surgery.

they’ve all seen it on TV, and they all stand to profit from it, they may have even stayed in a Holiday Inn last night. but they have no clue what they are actually doing.

the difference between them and me is: I’ve seen humans travel to the moon, and read a lot about it.
but I’m smart enough to know I can’t do it.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
10:45 am

Brian, every single school district in Georgia is free to seek the same waivers from Title 20 that charter schools are granted. They actually frequently do seek certain waivers (class size, for example), but not others. Independent charter schools are governed directly by governing boards, NOT the local board of education, which may or may not be the authorizer of the school. Conversion charter schools have governing boards that operate largely in a ceremonial fashion, with the district retaining true control over the school. Charter school systems are even less truly charter, with the district again retaining authority over financial, personnel, and other administrative decisions.

The reason why school districts don’t want the flexibility that true (independent) charter schools have is because it would involve giving up substantial control and allowing true site-based management.

Charter schools do NOT have the legal right to “select” parents & students. They also don’t have the ability simply to send students “back to the public schools.” Any student who is removed permanently from the enrollment of a charter school either (A) has withdrawn voluntarily (transferred or dropped out), (B) graduated, or (C) been expelled, which must be handled identically to the due process requirements of the O.C.G.A. that all public schools must obey.

Charter school students don’t receive “scholarships” from the government, unless they are part of the special needs scholarship program.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
10:50 am

A few charter schools have chosen to hire a Florida-based company to educate Georgia children because their governing board elected to contract with that company–that’s a site-based management decision made by the parents & community members who govern that school. Kind of like how dozens of Georgia boards of education have hired an Illionois company to operate their alternative schools and educate Georgia children. The people who are elected or appointed to govern public schools make the decisions as to who they will do business with.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
10:53 am

bootney, the Commission is an example of a governing board and reflects a variety of expertise across multiple domains, with several Commissioners being education expertise P-16 and beyond. Insurance executives don’t tell surgeons how to perform heart surgery and hospital systems don’t populate their governing boards entirely with surgeons. And comparing the education & knowledge of a K-12 teacher to that of a cardiac surgeon is ridiculous “to boot.” ;)

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
10:54 am

“an example of a WELL-DESIGNED governing board”

Dr. Monica Henson

January 19th, 2013
10:55 am

“BRINGING education expertise”

Found my reading glasses, obviously. ;)

10:10 am

January 19th, 2013
11:38 am

All those teachers’ union dollars squandered trying to head off education reform—only to see parental choice win out in the end !

Ros Dalton

January 19th, 2013
8:57 pm

Almost the exact same collection of crusty and well connected appointees who were given the right to pass along handouts to the fraudulent charter schools industry the last time around. These are people who account to no one in the zones where they permit schools to be built, who have no requirement to visit those schools, and who have shown absolutely no desire to oversee those schools or enforce the actual terms of their charters. No one loves local school boards (often not even the individuals serving on them) but that word local has meaning. I have met every member of my county’s board. I regularly attend the community meetings of my local board member. When she makes a mistake I can and do call her on it, face to face, and she in some way answers me, even if only with standard politician speak.

These men and women will never have to face a parent, never answer an individual’s question, and can act with utter impunity subject only to the whims of the men who appointed them and the industry that sustains them. It is a bad idea to hand out this power to a nebulous commission of unelected individuals and in time we will all pay for it. Good luck if you live in a zone they are told needs a touch of tampering.

Proud Teacher

January 19th, 2013
11:12 pm

And charter schools are not about money? Look at this board? Yes, it’s about the money. If it was about education, there would certainly be more teachers involved. Once again…. follow the money.

bootney farnsworth

January 20th, 2013
7:48 am

@ Monica

you’ve obviously never worked in a hospital

bootney farnsworth

January 20th, 2013
7:52 am

@ monica

by your stating my comparison is flawed, you have validated it.
thank you.

bootney farnsworth

January 20th, 2013
7:54 am

@ proud,

why do you think this whole silly concept got off the ground in the first place? this is gas deregulation in a different form. nothing more, nothing less.

bootney farnsworth

January 20th, 2013
7:57 am

@ Catlady

in a sense, HBCUs and faith based schools like BYU and Notre Dame are sorta charter schools. I know its not exactly the same, but conceptually I think it applies.

Private Citizen

January 20th, 2013
8:51 am

Bootney, I’d definitely say there are some “business doctors” who adopt a peculiar point of view and choose to shun their professional kin on a world level, as if they, the business doctors, are Church of Latter Day Saints people choosing who they associate with. How else to they justify routinely keeping people in the hospital for 3 days and sending them home with an $80,000 invoice? There A LOT of U.S. doctors play-acting this character lobotomy thing. There is wide-spread predatory activity amongst U. S. doctors, who do this simple minded “Poor me, What can I do?” routine while issuing these year around stunning bills for services to pay for their million dollar+ homes, vacation in Aspen, and for their dumb kids to grow up to be rich alcoholics. The kids drink because of living in the home of a sociopath business doctor parent who insists on “Doll House” environment at home as well as at work.

An educator

January 20th, 2013
10:00 pm

Unless a person is in the classroom with the kids, and watching what goes on in administration, they have NO clue what goes on. Ask the folks in the classroom what works not administrators who are out brown nosing. College Professors or College Administration do not have a clue. The key to success lies with the informal group of teachers who run the school.

ATL Mama

January 20th, 2013
11:35 pm

Are they parents? Do they have children who have or are currently attending Ga public schools or charter schools?

Any former PTA officers? When we neglect to have someone who represents this point of view at the table, the discussion is incomplete.

Educator of Truth

January 23rd, 2013
1:29 pm

Charter School “performance” is not being evaluated fairly. There are hundreds of traditional public schools that have been in existence for 15-20 plus years and many charters (especially if they are start-ups) maybe have been in existence 3 years or less and is already matching or surpassing the levels of performance in its 1st couple of years. Honestly, until performance evaluation is less test score heavy, these arguments will be as pointless as the CRCT and the other non-student benefitting policies .