Archive for the ‘Fulton’ Category

All eyes and concerns on charter school constitutional amendment today

I am at a packed meeting of a joint House and Senate education committee where all attention is on HR 1162, which would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot essentially allowing the state to approve and fund charter schools and use local dollars. (Please note that I am writing as folks speak and will have more typos than usual but will go back and correct once there is a break.)

Sitting in front of me are the school chiefs of Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb — but they are being told that the House and Senate meeting chairs do not want to address the controversial amendment, that it will be dealt with only at the House Ed meeting to follow

Meeting has yet to start with all the major education players are here. Sen. Fran Millar, chair of the Senate ed committee, is greeting school chiefs now. Everyone seems cordial, although school chiefs are clearly opposed to any effort to reroute local dollars from their schools.

Millar just said he doesn’t want to turn this into a debate …

Continue reading All eyes and concerns on charter school constitutional amendment today »

Abuse of Fulton students with special needs continues to shock

An administrative court decision represents quite a victory for a Fulton family and quite a condemnation of Fulton County schools.  The details of this saga continue to shock –  a middle school teacher mistreated and abused a student with cerebral palsy.

But witnesses  also say Hopewell Middle School special education teacher Melanie Pickens also punished students, including Alex Williams, by restraining them in a chair and leaving them in the dark.

Investigators hired by Fulton schools and from the state’s Professional Standards Commission confirmed the abuse, saying that Pickens screamed at students, hit, kicked and cursed at them, sprayed them with disinfectant and passed gas in their faces.

“Her inappropriate behavior and treatment ran the gamut from being too rough with special education students to sheer meanness,” an investigator wrote in his report to Fulton Schools.

Chris Vance, a lawyer for the families, said the school system failed to protect …

Continue reading Abuse of Fulton students with special needs continues to shock »

Former Fulton and Cobb school chief to state official who uncovered CRCT cheating: “You’ll pay dearly for it.”

Wow. Listen to this damning Channel 2 Action News tape of former Fulton and Cobb school chief James Wilson berating Kathleen Mathers, who, while director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, led the state probe into irregular CRCT results.

In his current role as an education consultant, Wilson was interrogating Mathers on behalf of Dougherty County Schools, which was seeking to defend itself against cheating allegations by discrediting the state audit of CRCT answer sheets.

Mathers’ agency found the highest rates of improbable wrong to right erasures in Dougherty and Atlanta schools.

An odd things about the interview: Wilson is clearly out of his political depth in threatening Mathers, who had the full support of Gov. Sonny Perdue in her efforts.

Continue reading Former Fulton and Cobb school chief to state official who uncovered CRCT cheating: “You’ll pay dearly for it.” »

Charter schools: Is financial mismanagement the issue to watch?

Charter schools are not faring well in the national press where there have been a series of articles about financial mismanagement, including a searing three-part series this week in the Miami Herald.

We are seeing some of the same problems arising in Georgia that the Herald cites in its series. For example, the entry of for-profit management companies into the charter school market has dramatically increased the number of charter schools, but it has also led to the natural tension that results when profits become a driving force in school decisions and motivations. In fact, New York, New Mexico and Tennessee ban for-profit companies from managing charter schools.

According to the Herald series, which is worth reading:

But while charter schools have grown into a $400-million-a-year business in South Florida, receiving about $6,000 in taxpayer dollars for every student enrolled, they continue to operate with little public oversight. Even when charter schools have been …

Continue reading Charter schools: Is financial mismanagement the issue to watch? »

Hidden dangers: Do we know how safe our schools really are?

The mother of a 16-year-old beaten in science class by five classmates is now speaking out on school safety. (AJC photo)

The mother of a 16-year-old beaten in science class by five classmates is now speaking out on school safety. (AJC photo)

Attorney Esther Panitch says she can obtain a reliable grid on police activity in any place in metro Atlanta because it is public information.

“But I cannot get an accurate one in schools because there is culture of hiding incidents and failure to report them,” she says.

Panitch says she is running headfirst into this culture in her legal representation of a 16-year-old Westlake High School student beaten so badly last month at school that he suffered a broken jaw and broken nose and underwent surgery.

Five schoolmates face criminal charges, and the Fulton district attorney has filed a motion to potentially prosecute the juveniles charged in this crime as adults.

Many questions remain about the school’s response in this case, including failing to call an ambulance for the bleeding victim and the 40-minute wait after the attack to call his …

Continue reading Hidden dangers: Do we know how safe our schools really are? »

Slam dunk for SPLOST in metro Atlanta. Here comes $3.2 billion for schools.

The education SPLOST won in all metro counties where it was on the ballot today. That means a projected $3.2 billion in sales taxes going to schools over the next five years in Atlanta, Buford and Decatur, as well as Cherokee, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties.

In Gwinnett, SPLOST passed with 61 percent of the vote. One of the closest votes was in Cherokee, but the tax passed there 54 percent to 46 percent, still a comfortable margin of victory.

The penny sales tax for school construction drew more than 60 percent of the votes in Fulton and DeKalb. New DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson isn’t waiting for the last vote to be tallied, already releasing this statement:

“We are very pleased the voters of DeKalb County are supportive of our efforts to provide the best facilities and resources for our students. We look forward over the next five years to building new schools, completing needed renovations and bringing the latest technology to DeKalb schools, …

Continue reading Slam dunk for SPLOST in metro Atlanta. Here comes $3.2 billion for schools. »

AJC panel on education tonight: Candid and compelling. You should have been there.

I moderated an AJC panel tonight on education with terrific panelists; Fulton school chief Robert Avossa, City Schools of Decatur associate superintendent Thomas Van Soelen, Milken Educators Greg Ott of Fulton, Kelly Stopp of Gwinnett and Rachel Willis of APS and the Georgia Teacher of the Year Jadun McCarthy of Bibb, who is working with the state Department of Education during his reign.

Thanks to all of them for coming out on this rainy night, and thanks, too, to the audience members, including some Get Schooled readers and posters. Special thanks to the area school board members who attended.

I admired the candor of the teachers and the school administrators. This was my first exposure to Avossa, and I found him honest and sincere.  I also thought that he reacted well to Fulton teacher Ott’s comments that he feared teachers were no longer being told just what to teach but how to teach, and that the drive for sameness in every classroom was leading to mediocrity. Avossa was …

Continue reading AJC panel on education tonight: Candid and compelling. You should have been there. »

Fulton school chief joins AJC panel Thursday. Still a few seats so come on down and meet ed team.

To all,

There are still a few seats for the AJC’s Editor’s Roundtable Thursday on education hosted by editor Kevin Riley.

Also, we have added a sixth educator to the panel, new Fulton County Superintendent Robert Avossa. He joins Thomas van Soelen of City Schools of Decatur, Milken Award winning teachers Kelly Stopp (Gwinnett), Rachel Willis (APS) and Greg Ott (Fulton) and Georgia Teacher of the Year Jadun McCarthy (Bibb.)

The panel discussion begins at 7 p.m., although you are invited to join us earlier at 6:30 p.m. for light refreshments and to meet our education team.

Just a reminder, the AJC is now located across from Perimeter Mall. Our building is near the intersection of Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center Parkway, close to the Dunwoody Marta Station.

Please RSVP here.

Editor’s Roundtable
7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
223 Perimeter Center Parkway
Atlanta, GA  30346

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled …

Continue reading Fulton school chief joins AJC panel Thursday. Still a few seats so come on down and meet ed team. »

Former Mayor Shirley Franklin: Georgia will be beat by states that invest in knowledge economy

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin says the state will fall behind if it does not invest in education.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin says the state will fall behind if it does not invest in education.

I have been surprised at the opposition toward the education SPLOST on the Nov. 8 ballot in Atlanta,  Fulton, DeKalb, Decatur, Gwinnett, Buford, Cherokee and Henry.

Given the stark reduction in state funds for education and the depressed housing market, schools are in desperate straits, and there would seem to be no more critical time to renew the penny sales tax for construction and capital improvements than now.

Among those who have not signed on — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the business community. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year, Reed said the penny — which has helped build or renovate 84 city schools or other buildings in the last 15 years— instead needs to go to a regional transportation plan expected to be put to voters next year.

Reed did not want the school system to seek to renew its SPLOST because Atlanta …

Continue reading Former Mayor Shirley Franklin: Georgia will be beat by states that invest in knowledge economy »

E-SPLOST: Are you voting for or against it? Tell the AJC.

With the E-SPLOST vote set to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, the AJC is preparing a series of stories looking at the pros and cons of the vote that could pump nearly $2 billion into schools in Atlanta and Decatur, as well as Fulton and DeKalb counties. Gwinnett and Buford are also slated to vote on renewing their E-SPLOST as is Cherokee and Henry.

If you have thoughts on the SPLOST, please contact Ernie Suggs.

Are you for it? Or against it?

Since this program has been in place since 1997, what has it done for your school district?

What should the district be doing with all of this money?

My personal take: The district where the rumbling about this vote seems the loudest is DeKalb, but I suspect it will still pass there. I live in Decatur and I think Decatur voters will endorse a renewal of SPLOST as there is strong support for the schools.  Despite the cheating scandal, I also think APS parents will vote for it as they are dealing with painful cuts to their schools right now …

Continue reading E-SPLOST: Are you voting for or against it? Tell the AJC. »