School Board Votes "No" on Annexation

As reported by the AJC, the detailed by Judd Owen in a recent comment, last night the Decatur school board voted with the Superintendent in opposing annexation.

Actually its a little more nuanced than that according to Judd…

“The board voted tonight on the three options presented by the City’s report, which were 1) no annexation, 2) annex the three areas north of the tracks only, 3) annex all six areas. They voted a firm no on option 3, but were split on 1 and 2.  The split seemed to be in large part because the data on how many students would come in from those areas was so murky and contradictory. Even among board members relatively open to annexation, there was a strong sense that we do not have a clear view of exactly what we’d be getting into with annexation.”

About what I expected.  Regardless of any personal concerns about gain or loss, we can’t go around making unalterable decisions without valid backup data.   Because of the discrepancies recently brought to light by Judd and Pat, this issue now seems to be going before the commission half-baked.  If they voted in favor, the commission would be supporting an annexation plan that included disputed data.

If I was a commissioner, I’d be very wary of voting on anything before all that student enrollment data was recalculated to match the current version of the map.

But apparently, we’re going forward anyway.  That, in itself, hints at the outcome.

Brother, Can You Spare $1 Million?

In a recent Decatur edTV video, school Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards talks with restrained irritation about the state’s funding shortfall when it comes to public schools, and discusses where Decatur will have to make cutbacks (travel, no overtime, hiring freeze, reduction in technology and maintenance…and even more going forward).

As noted in previous posts, about $250,000 of that $1 million was supposed to come from rolling back the “austerity cuts” on schools that Perdue implemented when he took office.  But apparently that was all talk.  The other nearly $700,000 is from the disappearing Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grant money that the state can’t afford to pay back to the city (whoops!).

The state of Georgia seems to have planned as poorly as the sub-prime mortgage industry and all of its many patrons.

If you’d like to let Sonny know how you feel, here’s the link.

Decatur Schools Face $1 Million Deficit

…thanks mostly to Sonny and his threatened repeal of the Homestead Tax Relief Grant, which accounts for $700,000 of the missing funds.

So where’d the other money go?  Well, apparently the state made a calculation mistake, which coupled with a 2% cut from a QBE (Quality Basic Education) formula, accounts for another $212,000.

Anyone else see a common thread here?  The state can’t balance its budget (resulting in killing the HTRG – though Sonny would argue otherwise) + they have a tendency to make some big ol’ calculation errors? Sounds to me like the state could benefit from a little elementary school math lesson…or at least a middle school beat-down.

But enough of my rambling. Read the full explanation and implications from Superintendent Phyllis Edwards (supplied by InDecatur) after the jump. Continue reading “Decatur Schools Face $1 Million Deficit”

Decatur Schools Awarded Charter Status

From the AJC

“Both Decatur and Marietta city schools today became two of Georgia’s first “charter” systems — piloting what state officials hope will be a nationally recognized effort to free local school systems from red tape.

State Board of Education members also approved a third system, Gainesville City. A fourth system, Chattahoochee County, failed; the board voted it down unanimously. State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox had recommended Chattahoochee be denied.”

All changes will go into effect this August.

What changes you ask?  Here’s an AJC blurb from a December post that probably does the best job of summing up the very long and complex application.

“In Decatur, the biggest change would be in governance. Schools would establish individual “leadership teams,” giving parents and community members a bigger role in finance and program decisions. The system wants to consider bonus pay for teachers for both school-level and classroom achievement. Tenure and membership in the state’s teacher retirement system would remain. The system also would explore ways for students to earn academic credits based on knowledge, not just classroom time. What would change least? Student testing.”

Decatur Awaits Final Charter Approval Today

Along with May-retta, Gainesville and Warren County schools, Decatur will find out today whether it will be among the first four charter school systems in the country. Prior comments and articles seem to indicate this is all but a done deal, so its relatively safe to assume that we will receive a hearty approval from the state school board.

If approved, major changes for Decatur include “incentive pay” for teachers, academic credits for students based on knowledge and not just class time, and a move toward using national tests (instead of state) to measure academic achievement.

Decatur Schools Call for Tax Hike to Hire Staff

The AJC reports that CDS wants to raise the millage rate by 1 mill (about an $100 increase on a $200k home), after 4 years of declines, so they can hire more staff and give them a pay raise.

Here’s the full text…

While DeKalb County school officials consider possibly laying off staff, Decatur city school officials next year may actually add positions — but they also want to raise residents’ taxes.

A proposed $37 million general fund budget will go next week before city school board members for preliminary approval, and includes a 1 mill increase in owners’ property millage rates.

The increase equates to about $100 more in property taxes on a home valued at $200,000. This is the first city school millage increase after four years of rate reductions. The new rate clocks in at 19.90 mills. By comparison, the rate in 2004 was 20.24, but had declined to 18.90 as of this year.

The proposal comes as the system, now with 2,500 students, grew by about 100 children. It adds three new fourth-grade teachers, two new kindergarten teachers and new middle-school Spanish and choir instructors. For existing staff, it also includes a 2.5 percent pay raise in addition to a 3 percent “step” increase.

Step increases are a salary supplement based on years of experience. DeKalb officials originally proposed not giving county staff step increases, but school board members have suggested cutting some positions in order to restore them.

Annoyed about rising taxes? Don’t forget to first direct your anger at DeKalb County over HOST or get vocal on commercial annexation before taking CDS to task.

Decatur Rocks Charter School App; Approval "Highly Likely"

Like a star pupil, City of Decatur Schools stands alone.

According to the AJC, Decatur’s charter school application was the only one that recently met the approval of a state review committee.  According to the paper, the State Broad of Ed is also expected to give a final nod to Decatur’s application.

Like less motivated students, the other four districts were told their applications needed revision.  Marietta City; Gainesville City; Warren County, near Augusta; and Chattahoochee County, near Columbus were recently informed that their plans to achieve goals and improve student performance were too darn vague and needed beefing up.

You gotta give CDS and all involved (including residents) a lot of credit for this achievement.  It’s just further evidence that we really think about and consider policy in this city.  We don’t just jump blindly into things seeking approval and funding like…ahem…some folks.

Now it really sounds like Decatur will be the state’s poster child for its new, unique charter school system.

As a result, will we begin seeing strong conservative support from the capitol for the state’s most liberal city?