Chase Street Parents Have Concerns About a Charter District

Congratulations on being named National Superintendent of the Year, an honor we feel you richly deserve. We are proud of you and proud to be CCSD!

Thank you for taking the time to meet with community members to discuss the Clarke County School District’s impending application to become a state charter school district. We find it unfortunate that the state is requiring our district to expend precious resources formulating a plan for what seems like change for the sake of change. We believe CCSD has been and is making substantial progress in meeting the challenges of educating such a diverse population in an ever-shifting political landscape. That being said, we believe the charter school district is the best of our three available choices and would like to assist in making the application as robust as possible. To that end, on behalf of the Chase Street School Council, I would like to offer the following observations.

Given the need for flexibility and innovation, the waiver process seems to be the key advantage of the charter school system. We understand the concept of asking for the kitchen sink so as not to be painted in a corner when circumstances shift. However, we believe our community would benefit from a clear articulation of the expectations and purpose behind each waiver. Specifically, we would like to evaluate these waivers by their effectiveness in keeping resources in the classroom. With that in mind:

  • What current waivers will remain and what is the rationale for keeping them in place?

  • What new waivers are being considered and what are the implications of these new waivers?

  • Are all waivers being properly vetted in order to discern which ones might or might not be appropriate for our school?

Of course, we are also concerned that test scores will remain as 50 percent of teacher evaluations. The fact that we evaluate our students, teachers and schools on a static measurement that is not recognized as statistically valid, much less effective, is the shame in all this. And while we believe the state mandated SLOs are misguided at best, is reinventing a student testing system to evaluate teachers the best use of our limited resources? Why not propose and lobby for a system of teacher evaluation that is not so heavily weighted on test scores? Perhaps your recent state and national recognition will result in our legislators actually listening to you. Please let us know when and how we can help on this.

Regarding the makeup of the Local School Governance Teams, we believe that CCSD must take the utmost care in balancing the needs and harnessing the resources of the community, while leaving primary control of each school with parents. It is essential that the impact on school governance by those parties operating on their financial interests be minimized. Maintaining current state-mandated school council parental control requirements should be the minimum and explicitly stated. We also recommend that at-large members of LSGTs be parents of students currently enrolled in that school. Furthermore, we advise that neighborhood and community member positions should be offered first to parents of current students. Having all LSGT representatives residing in or having substantive ties to that school’s attendance zone should be encouraged, if not required.

We are concerned with the proposed commitment requirements for LSGT members. The amount of training and proposed meeting schedule may deter interested parents and teachers from participating. We understand your reluctance to define diversity, but the commitment required leads to a strong self-selection bias and therefore a lack of diversity, however defined.

We are also concerned with the three-year term requirement. From our interpretation of the charter application, after the first year of transition, parents of 4th and 5th graders (elementary), 7th and 8th graders (middle), and juniors and seniors (high school) would be precluded from serving on LSGTs because of the three-year term requirement. Given that it takes parents at least one year to gain an understanding of the labyrinth of federal, state and district policies, much less the nuances of any given school, to limit LSGT governance to parents of incoming and first-year students reduces the likelihood of effective governance by excluding experienced parental leadership from consideration. We recommend that LSGT representatives be elected in staggered two-year terms after the initial year of implementation of the charter district model.

Finally, but most importantly, we feel that precisely defining the tasks of LSGTs is critical. While narrowing the achievement gap is a laudable and necessary goal, we feel that LSGTs’ role should be defined and measured in terms of support for teachers and the classroom experience. We would like to avoid the LSGT becoming another level of governance and recommend that LSGT’s be a conduit for the voice of students, their teachers and our school.

Thank you for your efforts and dedication to our children.