Obama comes to Decatur, but school is out for week. Go to the beach or go to school to meet the president?

President Obama will visit City of Decatur Schools pre-k on Thursday. (My 14-year-olds attend Decatur schools and attended pre-k at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center that the president will visit.)

Oddly, Decatur schools are closed this week as part of the district’s balanced schedule calendar, which features a shorter summer and week-long breaks throughout the year. Many folks had vacation plans already in place and are out of town. (Some families went to Washington, D.C. Turns out that they’d have had a better chance glimpsing the president if they stayed in Decatur.)

Apparently, Decatur intends to reconvene its pre-k for the president’s visit. I’m not sure how many 4-year-olds from the pre-k classes can be rounded up Thursday. The quandary for parents may be: Go to the beach or go to school to meet the president?  I would suspect most 4- and 5-year-olds would take the beach, but their parents may disagree.

College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur also houses early learning classes for 3-year-olds and younger, and those programs are in session this week. So, the president will see children regardless of how many Decatur pre-k students give up a vacation day for his visit and remarks. And as one poster noted, the purpose of any presidential visit to a school is not for the president to see schoolchildren, but for the president to be seen.

According to the AJC:

Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program will get a turn in the national spotlight this week when President Barack Obama uses Decatur as a backdrop to promote an education initiative to give low-income preschoolers an earlier start on their schooling.

Although White House officials are mum on the details, several people briefed on the plans said Obama plans to address a proposal that would give more 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families a chance to go to pre-k programs. On Thursday he will visit Decatur’s College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center.

College Heights’ website says the school serves 326 children through a partnership with City Schools of Decatur and Partners for Community Action, Inc. (Head Start Program).

Georgia is a fitting place for the announcement as the state was considered far ahead of its time two decades ago when it used lottery funds to launch a statewide pre-kindergarten program. In recent years, though, flattening lottery revenues and increasing enrollment have forced the state to reduce pre-kindergarten schedules and increase class sizes.

“Our pre-k program is still a national example. But certainly we can do more to increase quality and access,” said Mindy Binderman, the executive director of Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, an advocacy group. “We have to be sure we don’t rest on our laurels.”

Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said the president’s expected proposal has the potential to offer “a remarkable boost” to efforts to provide educational and economic opportunities for all.

“Well-designed preschool education programs could close the entire achievement gap between children from low- and high-income families at school entry and as much as half the gap permanently,” Barnett said.

After Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the president is scheduled to travel to North Carolina, Georgia and Chicago to amplify some of the policies he lays out Tuesday. A White House official, briefing reporters in advance of the State of the Union speech, declined to “give away the secret” of any new education policy.

Details of Obama’s Thursday visit haven’t been released, but he’s expected to visit pre-kindergarten students at College Heights and swing by the Decatur Recreation Center. Courtney Burnett, the Decatur school system’s legislative liaison, said employees are scurrying to prepare for Obama’s arrival. “Everyone is very excited. This is a big honor for us,” she said. “It’s the first time we can recall a visit to a Decatur school by a president.”

State Sen. Fran Millar, a Dunwoody Republican and former chairman of the Senate education committee, said he’s optimistic that Obama’s proposal will mean significant changes to the early-childhood education system. “I firmly believe that early learning is critical for long-term success and believe investment in this initiative by the feds and states makes sense,” Millar said. “The president got this one right.”

Georgia initially opened pre-k to children from low-income families but quickly expanded admission to all 4-year-olds regardless of family income. But in recent years, legislators and Gov. Nathan Deal made unpopular changes to the program amid soaring enrollment and flagging lottery earnings.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

84 comments Add your comment

Lee

February 12th, 2013
8:52 am

Should’ve scheduled it for one of the teacher furlough days. Now, THAT would have been ironic.

“Yessir Mr. President, normally on a school day such as today, this school would have been full of students. But, we cannot afford to pay teachers. So, now you’re wanting MORE students to be able to NOT attend school on a day like today?”

Lewis Carroll couldn’t have made this stuff up any better…

Mary Elizabeth

February 12th, 2013
9:11 am

From the article, above: “ ‘I firmly believe that early learning is critical for long-term success and believe investment in this initiative by the feds and states makes sense,’ (State Senator Fran) Millar said.”
===================================================

I fully agree. Furthermore, “early learning is critical” not only for the “long-term success” of the children involved in the early learning programs, but for the success of Georgia, itself – economically, educationally, and socially.

reality check

February 12th, 2013
9:26 am

The DeKalb political system is modeled on the Chicago system. Obama should feel right at home.

AJC isn't me

February 12th, 2013
9:32 am

Wouldn’t a visit to the AJC newsroom provide him with all the wide-eyed worshipers he could ever hope for?

Leave the kids and teachers to their vacation.

John M

February 12th, 2013
9:32 am

Two corrections to the above posts: One, the City Schools of Decatur system is not part of DeKalb. Second, I don’t believe the CSD system has had to furlough teachers.

bu2

February 12th, 2013
9:37 am

Go to the beach. They might remember the beach 20 years from now.

President Obama should visit a middle school. Potential future topic for you Maureen-why are urban middle schools so bad? What could be done differently? Even places with good elementary and high schools often have problematic middle schools.

Proud Teacher

February 12th, 2013
9:38 am

Whoever schedules the school’s visitors did a poor job.

Pardon My Blog

February 12th, 2013
9:41 am

Don’t you just love it! I think he could care less that some parents may have planned to be out of town that week, he expects people to fall all over themselves to bow at his feet! Instead of visiting a school perhaps it would do him good to stay in Washington and actually put in a days work. While education is a concern, the economy, the budget and foreign conflicts should have his focus.

cmac

February 12th, 2013
9:47 am

Let’s see … go to beach and have fun …. or, drag yourself to school on a day you don’t have to be there … AND, as an added bonus, you get to listen to a lying politician … TOUGH CHOICE!!

Techmom

February 12th, 2013
9:50 am

@bu2 – I agree; most ,middle schools are awful and are what I consider the downfall of public education and not just urban middle schools- ALL middle schools!

John

February 12th, 2013
9:52 am

There are 180 city and county public school systems in Georgia with pre-K programs. Not all of them are closed Thursday. Just have him shift his visit to another city or county in Georgia and there is no logistical problem at all. Is that too complicated?

Michelle-Middle School

February 12th, 2013
9:52 am

What about the teachers? Everyone who has, or is, a teacher knows well that the teachers will be “required” to be there, regardless of the fact that it is their time off. How in the world did this happen. Didn’t the school system know that the week was a vacation week when they agreed to have the President in the building. Stupidity continues to reign in education in Georgia. If I were still teaching I would refuse to give up my time because the district was too ignorant to schedule a visit during school hours. This is absolutely no surprise to me at all. We “must” make sure the Superintendent looks good.

chrissyalexis

February 12th, 2013
9:54 am

First off, visiting a school is a days work because it all falls under his job category. Secondly, know the facts Decatur City Schools have not had to furlough teachers. Thirdly, this is the dead middle of winter and I’ve done my fair share of traveling who would plan to take there kids to the beach unless you travel to a Caribbean or Hawaiian destination because the ones here in the states are way too cold. Lastly, his schedule doesn’t revolve around you as I’m sure yours doesn’t revolve around his. Like it or not we have 4 more years!

resno2

February 12th, 2013
9:55 am

” the president will see kids regardless of how many Decatur pre-k students give up their vacation to return to school for his visit.”

This visit isn’t to see, it is to be seen. Leave the kids to their day off and go find your props somewhere else.

Pardon My Blog

February 12th, 2013
9:56 am

Perhaps he should go to a school in Adairsville and then he could also see the destruction caused by the Tornado and why they need assistance!

Mary

February 12th, 2013
9:57 am

Agreed, thinks he needs to stay in Washington and quit dictating and threatening and get something done..that’s a thought!!
Wow, maybe someone should show him the article that ran yesterday on our schools that are now failing due to the new core Math that should be started in first grade!!

Mighty Mouse

February 12th, 2013
9:58 am

Here I come to save the day…

Thurston Howell IV

February 12th, 2013
10:00 am

” But, we cannot afford to pay teachers. So, now you’re wanting MORE students to be able to NOT attend school on a day like today?””

We could afford more and better teachers if the overpaid, overpromoted administrators and assistant vice associate directors of diversity with sustainability would stop stealing the money that we pour into the school system. These are make work, extraneous,money pit jobs and the crooks that hold them know it.

I
m flabbergasted why real, in-the-classroom teachers haven’t risen up against these leeches.

Mike

February 12th, 2013
10:07 am

he is coming to a school district that is closed during his visit time on purpose folks. Haven’t you guys figured this guy out yet? LOL

RCB

February 12th, 2013
10:09 am

Why Decatur? Any school outside of Decatur would have given him a better indication of education in America. Decatur is the anomaly in our area. I doubt he will learn very much, but I don’t think that’s the purpose of the visit.

Atlanta Mom

February 12th, 2013
10:09 am

I never had to drag my children to preschool. They couldn’t wait to go. I’m sure those kids will be thrilled to have an extra day at school.

Bill & Ed's Excellent Adventure

February 12th, 2013
10:21 am

@Decatur Schools — please contact me if you need 4-year-old extras to stage the President’s visit! I’d love for my child to meet & sit with a U.S. President.

Angela

February 12th, 2013
10:30 am

WOW! I am amazed at the amount of anger and let’s just be kind and use the word respect that is out there about the president. I can agree that there are many problems that need to be focused upon. However, much of what he planned to address and try to make better was stopped by the “Tea Party” (which did not exist until the man you all think is Black because of the color of his skin got into office). We as Americans don’t stop to respect the man and it seems that we don’t even respect the position or title.

When will you people who do not respect Obama for an unintelligent reason, accept he walked into the mess that has affected the economy. He cannot and will not be able to fix this mess in 8 years. The sad thing is, that each term when a new official is elected they have their own agenda and how to fix the problems. However, for that reason nothing will ever be truly fixed. There is no stability or consistency from one political party to the next.

People we must become a part of the solution to the problem and not a part of the problem. Anger, racism, hate, fighting, etc. is not and never has been a solution to any problem. Not even in your own household or race.

@Lee – I agree with Lee. It should be a teacher furlough day. I want my 30k back. DCSS seems to have quite a bit of funds (that they claim not to have) to pay out lately.

HS Teacher

February 12th, 2013
10:30 am

I was thinking exactly Lee’s first statement. The visit is happening when school is out due to the lack of money. Hahaha

paulo977

February 12th, 2013
10:36 am

RCB….”Why Decatur? Any school outside of Decatur would have given him a better indication of education in America”
—————————————————————————-
Good question !!! How about getting him to a school where kids are involved in the mindless exercise of bubbling in answers so that they can Race to the Top???

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
10:42 am

this is a trick question, right?

marm

February 12th, 2013
10:44 am

Decatur is an independent system so please don’t lump it into your rants about the DCSS mess.

George

February 12th, 2013
10:53 am

I am sure their are many schools that are open that he could visit only in Georgia.People all problems in schools come from home no teacher can make any child due any thing.Marm Decatur schools are a long ways from being perfect and I got that from the inside.Their are no picket fences anymore have you check the dam news lately.

resno2

February 12th, 2013
10:54 am

Angela, why is it that any time anyone disagrees with, or has no respect for the man who holds the office of President, someone automatically throws the racist card? Using that crutch doesn’t make him a leader.

Maureen Downey

February 12th, 2013
10:57 am

@chrissy, I can assure you that many Decatur families are at the beach. Just looking at photos posted by a neighbor in Sea Grove and another in Naples. (And having lived and worked in Fort Myers, Fl., for three years, I can also assure you that it is warm enough to go to the beach this week. The high today in Fort Myers will be 82; tomorrow is supposed to be 84.)
Maureen

GC

February 12th, 2013
10:57 am

When areyou going to report on the U.S. Dept. of Education study that showed these Pre-K/Headstart programs were at best worthless and generally harmful? http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/01/head-start-impact-evaluation-report-finally-released

Decaturite

February 12th, 2013
10:59 am

“It’s the first time we can recall a visit to a Decatur school by a president.”

Ms. Burnett must be new to Decatur.

While not a sitting president, former President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter visited frequently when their grandchildren attended Decatur schools. Mrs. Carter attended the dedication of the Frazier Center at the high school, and former President Bill Clinton held an election rally in the DHS stadium.

marm

February 12th, 2013
11:01 am

@George, who said they were perfect? Are you saying they have the same corruption as the surrounding county?

Looking for the truth

February 12th, 2013
11:02 am

Most travel plans are not changeable without penalty. Since there is no guarantee I would meet the President (I mean shake his hand, etc.), I’d go to the beach.

Just Sayin

February 12th, 2013
11:11 am

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Some of you guys are some sad bitter people. Half of you don’t even care about the topic. This is just an opportunity to spew more venom. Since most of you know so much and have all the answers, why not send and open letter to every major publication in the country. Get yourself heard. Let the rest of the country know. SAVE US oh great and awesome ones.

db4freedom

February 12th, 2013
11:11 am

Angela, are you kidding me! Of course with your liberal head stuck in the kool-aid bucket it’s only natural that would come up with this absolutely ignorant comment. Excuse me but it was YOU who brought up race. Did I miss it? Nobody was saying anything about race. Classic!

You are yet another uninformed voter who has totally been sucked in to the rhetoric that the media spews on a daily basis. Can you not sit back and have a rational thought? Can you not take a look at the facts? Your president is a pathological liar which can easily been proven basically every time he opens his mouth. Have you looked at your paycheck lately? Have you seen your health care cost go down? He’s making it worse stupid. Wake up!

ideasbm

February 12th, 2013
11:23 am

He could go to CNN where all the employees worship him and praise him as a second GOD.

Pardon My Blog

February 12th, 2013
11:25 am

@Angela – I am sure you felt the same way when President Bush was villified at every turn. His was not an easy presidency either starting with 9/11 and all the economic challenges that caused as well as trying to keep American’s safe.

RY

February 12th, 2013
11:43 am

John M is correct. Decatur is not part of the Dekalb school system. There have never been any furlough days. I speak from experience that City Schools of Decatur is a wonderful place to work. I’m sure the students and staff at College Heights will make a great impression on the President.

Ray

February 12th, 2013
11:50 am

Unintentionally, this highlights the silliness of the “winter break” (in addition to the one week fall break, one week Thanksgiving break, one week spring break) that is part of the new “balanced” school calendar. I’m sure Obama’s people had no idea that a school would be on break in mid-February. These frequent one week breaks may be great for some teachers, and for stay-at-home moms or families with very generous or very flexible vacation options, but for most of the working world they are a little exasperating.

Retired

February 12th, 2013
11:50 am

50% of the students in this school are on subsidized lunch plans so I suspect they are not going to be taking trips to the beach. The school is 73% black, 25 % caucasian and the remainder are Asian and Hispanic (total of 3 in this category). I strongly suspect it is easier to adjust the schedules of fewer than two dozen pre-k students than that of the president of the United States. Somebody needs to grow up and realize like him or not, the President is coming and that is an honor for the community and the school system. Maureen, I expect better reporting from you with more facts investigated before speaking/writing. This is not an area where folks flock to the beach during breaks, just as many of us do not.

buzzwax

February 12th, 2013
11:51 am

Angela,

With all due respect, your views of the ‘Tea Party’ are wrong.

The vast majority of those that consider themselves a part of the Tea Party subscribe to an IDEA not to a party. I 100% agree with you on giving the office of the President the respect it deserves but because one opposes the IDEAS of the office does not make that person a racist.

Most in the Tea Party do not like the ideas of BOTH Bush and Obama. Both Bush and Obama have increased our debt. Bush through questionable wars and senior drug plans and Obama through massive spending on bailouts for the financial, automotive and green energy sectors. Future spending on the new Healthcare plan will add gasoline to the inferno. Not just the money to fund the program but the path I decribe below……(please read with an open mind, I look forward to your response)

A bigger governement means that the government has a hand in more parts of our society. Why is this ‘bad’? When more and more industries, markets and yes even education, is run by the Federal government, more and more ‘rich’ lobbyists can influence the system and less and less parents/citizens have influence in how OUR money is spent. This leads to CORRUPTION and DEBT!!!! Think this is what is happening right now? In BOTH parties!!!!!!

When a family goes deep in debt, they don’t add more debt to solve the problem. Until our Federal Government does the same and changes the trajectory of our debt there will be less and less economic resources available for all of us. So, the IDEA of the Tea Party – The government works for US, we pay for the governemt and we get a say in HOW our government should run and spend OUR money. When it is the other way around and you depend upon the government….Liberty and freedom is eroded. Less liberty and less freedom will instill more dependence to a point of no return.

If you are a parent trying to teach your children that you work for what you get to create a mindset of desire to achieve/provide/survive or do you give that child an ongoing handout to stay at home/do nothing and remain under ‘your control/roof’ or do you provide tough love and tell your child to get a job and start paying rent once they are 18 and out of HS (if not going to college for example)? One path, while tougher, teaches work ethic. The other path teaches dependence.

A drug adict gets the short term euphoria from the drug but in the long term……..Is the solution more drugs? The easy path is more drugs but a path to destruction.

History has shown us that when a country is not financially strong it is very vulerable to collapse. Short term the easy path is to want someone else to provide for you. Once too many people are ‘using’ instead of ‘providing’, collapse will happen.

What is your idea? Seriously what is your idea? More Spending?

In my opinion 99% of the people who consider themselved a part of the Tea Party are not racists, they simply want a smaller and less wasteful/corrupt government. And in this regard you and I are far more alike and on the same page than most would realize.

A Conservative Voice

February 12th, 2013
11:56 am

@Angela

February 12th, 2013
10:30 am

WOW! I am amazed at the amount of anger and let’s just be kind and use the word respect that is out there about the president.

I tell you what, Angela……when he does something worthy of respect, I’ll give it some thought. When a person lies everytime he opens his mouth, in my humble opinion, that person is not worthy of my respect.

Don't Tread

February 12th, 2013
11:58 am

I vote “beach”. That was easy.

Maureen Downey

February 12th, 2013
12:00 pm

@Retired. Not sure of your sources but this is what DOE shows about the system as a whole:
City of Decatur school is 57 percent white, 37 percent African-American, 5 multi-racial.
Only 25 percent of its students are on free and reduced lunch.
http://archives.gadoe.org/ReportingFW.aspx?PageReq=102&CountyId=773&T=1&FY=2011

I understand that College Heights individual numbers are different because of the presence of Head Start in the building. I have been in Decatur schools since my oldest entered in 1994. One of the biggest changes has been the growing affluence of the students. You can look at average home prices over that time to see the dramatic shift.
Maureen

GCPS Parent

February 12th, 2013
12:05 pm

Obama should go to Grayson HS and address the loss of 4 of their students. 3 students that murdered another over high end apparel.

Retired

February 12th, 2013
12:06 pm

I focused my search on College Heights not all of Decatur since that is the school under discussion. Your comments about Decatur as a whole are right on target, I just didn’t think that was pertinent for this discussion. http://www.schoolfamily.com/find-a-school/statistics/16570-college-heights-elementary-school and http://georgia.educationbug.org/public-schools/elementary/16278-college-heights-elementary-school.html are the sites I used. You’re just usually so on target ( in my humble opinion) it seems odd to read these families will be at the beach. Keep up the good work of making us all think.

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
12:11 pm

@ angela

try moveon.com or dailykos. you’ll find kindred spirits there.

bootney farnsworth

February 12th, 2013
12:13 pm

why Decatur?

its a public school system that works, and most of its population is favorable towards him.
upper middle class white people with more tons of liberal guilt.

Warren Buffett

February 12th, 2013
12:17 pm

@Retired – You have no clue what you are talking about. As a City of Decatur resident, you . . . well, it is clear you don’t know. We’ll just leave it at that.