John Ahmann Decides Not to Run for School Board Re-Election

Decatur School Board Member John Ahmann writes…

Over the last eight years, I have worked hard to contribute to helping City Schools of Decatur be among the best of the best. But just as in a relay race, I think now is the time to “pass the baton” so that someone else may continue the sprint to the finish line, and I have decided to not seek re-election to the Board.

I do not intend to stop working on K-12 education reform but rather apply what I have learned in other areas.

I have learned a tremendous amount in my two terms, and I am grateful to the community for the opportunity to serve. I’m also grateful to my current and former board colleagues, the students, the Superintendent and the many fantastic teachers, principals and other staff in the school system.

Having worked in public policy change my entire adult life, I am acutely aware that any successful endeavor involves many people working together as links in a chain. I am proud to have been a link in the chain for arranging pro bono support from the Boston Consulting Group to develop the System’s strategic plan eight years ago; brokering philanthropic partnerships that led to the early childhood learning center and the program with the Ben Franklin Academy (which ensured dozens of at-risk students graduated from Decatur High School); and working closely with Lt. Governor Casey Cagle on the legislation that enabled the creation of Charter Districts.

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John Ahmann’s Plan For Tonight’s School Board Meeting

Decatur School Board member John Ahmann just forwarded the note he sent to his fellow board members, alerting them to what he plans to propose at tonight’s meeting.  Here it is in full…

I have reviewed the June 7, 2011 memo from CSD Legal Counsel Bob Wilson regarding the parliamentary procedures for placing on the June 14, 2011 Board agenda the action items I previously requested.  I will not be seeking to rescind  priors actions of the Board.

At the beginning of the meeting, when the Board customarily approves the agenda for the meeting, I will seek to amend the agenda to add three items:

  1. An action item to direct the Superintendent to answer all of my submitted questions or those of other board members on the adopted Bell schedule and my proposed bell schedule for the 2011-2012 school year as well as any questions posed during the discussion of the action item.

These questions include:

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Ahmann Responds to Wisniewski Prior to Tomorrow’s School Board Meeting

Replying to a note that the Decatur School Board Chair Marc Wisniewski sent in to DM the other day, Board Member John Ahmann continues the public conversation with his colleague regarding the already-once-voted-on bell schedule prior to tomorrow night’s meeting, where Ahmann will attempt to get the issue put back on the agenda.


Your recent correspondence to a citizen inquiry has two important errors of fact that I would like to address:

The first is, “…despite claims otherwise, there were not significant facts not already on the table and understood.” The evidence suggests the contrary:

a) I demonstrated at the last Board meeting that the cost estimates provided by Dr. Edwards were closely grossly inflated for the Bell schedule I proposed. Dr. Edwards has yet to correct, for the record, the cost estimates for the Bell schedule I proposed. She estimated $120,000 – $150,000. This is simply not true. Because costs were a significant driver for the decision, an accurate cost estimate is highly material.

b) At the May Board meeting Bruce Rhoaden represented the Decatur High School (DHS) SLT was ok with the earlier start time for the high school. Based on letters from high school members of the SLT, this is not true. In fact, we do not have any formal compilation of SLT parent views on the issue, nor do we have a clear picture of how the larger community perceives the issue.

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Decatur School Board Chair Weighs In on Bell Schedule Dispute

Last week, we reported that City Schools of Decatur board member John Ahmann was openly publicizing to the community that he was trying to get the bell schedule, which he had voted against at the last meeting, back on the agenda for June.

In this note to the community, Ahmann proposed a new schedule with later start-times at the middle school and high school and an earlier start for the 4/5 Academy.  He also disputed the costs that the Superintendent projected for his schedule.

Well, the June agenda is now online and Ahmann’s reconsideration of the bell schedule is not included.  This led to a update by a parent – posted on the CSD Parents message board – entitled “Board of Education Chair and Superintendent Ignore Ahmann’s Requests”.  A snippet…

…[John] received NO REPLY from either Marc Wisniewski or Phyllis Edwards to his personal email requests to each of them to have his items placed on the agenda.

…John’s only recourse now is to propose to amend the agenda at the Board meeting, which he said is his intention. He will need a second from another Board member, and then a majority of the Board to agree that his items should be discussed.

This note was forwarded to me many times over the last couple days.  I followed up and received this reply from School Board Chair Marc Wisniewski that he sent to another resident recently, detailing his position on this matter.  Here it is in full…

I hope you know that I have no intention to ‘squelch discourse’ nor to not do what would be good for students. The bell schedule was revisited over 3 successive months – it was time to make a decision. We had heard many pros and cons from many parents. There was a need to begin the planning and organizing process for next year. So last month we voted and reached a decision that took into account the issues on both the bell schedule and the bus contract. We made a decision by a 3 to 1 vote on each (Bernadette was not in attendance). Now the sole person in the minority is seeing to bring the issues up again – there is a proper process for that but it is NOT to have an action item placed on the agenda by the chair or the superintendent. And, despite claims otherwise, there were not significant facts not already on the table and understood.

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CSD Board Member Wants to Put Bell Schedules Back on the Agenda

After he was the only Decatur School Board member to vote against the new bell schedule for all CSD schools last month, John Ahmann wants the Board to reconsider the item in June.  He recently sent a note out to parents who opposed the recently adopted bell schedule and his letter was posted on a “Concerned Parents of CSD” message board.  He also questions the expense of paying DeKalb County to bus our students around as opposed to CSD lease purchasing its own buses.

Here is his letter in full…

Thank you for your email opposing the City of School’s Decatur (CSD) Bell time schedule for the 2011 –  2012 school year. At the recommendation of the Superintendent, at the May 10, 2011 the Board adopted on a 3-1 vote (1 member was absent) the following Bell schedule:

– Decatur High: 8:00 – 3:00
– Clairemont Elementary: 8:00 – 2:30
– Glennwood Elementary: 8:00 – 2:30
– Oakhurst Elementary: 8:00 – 2:30
– Winnona Park Elementary: 8:00 – 2:30
– Fifth Avenue 4/5 Academy: 8:45 – 3:45
– Renfroe Middle: 8:45 – 3:45

I voted no. I sought to table this Bell schedule for a month to give time for the Superintendent to give clearer and more accurate information on many of the questions raised by myself and the community on the proposed Bell schedule and also examine an alternative Bell schedule with a later high school start time and the 4/5 starting at 8:15. No board member seconded the motion so it failed.

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At Least One School Board Member Has Questions About Proposed Bell Schedule

Garrett points out this quote from a just-posted Patch article about tonight’s Decatur School Board meeting…

[Decatur School Board member John] Ahmann said he is interested in hearing more views from the community and superintendent but wouldn’t mind seeing Fifth Avenue start times at 8:20 a.m., ending at 3:20 p.m. For Renfroe and Decatur High, he suggests 8:45 a.m.

“I’m curious as to whether or not we can use one less bus for the high school,” Ahmann said, adding that parents suggest that just 12 percent of high schoolers use the bus system. “Maybe we just need three.”

Both Valerie Wilson and board chair Marc Wisniewski provided quotes to Patch indicating their support of the Superintendent’s bell schedule for the coming year.  Here’s the current proposal again for your reference…

Decatur High 8:00-3:00
Clairemont Elementary 8:00-2:30
Glennwood Elementary 8:00-2:30
Oakhurst Elementary 8:00-2:30
Winnona Park Elementary 8:00-2:30
Fifth Avenue 4/5 Academy 8:45-3:45
Renfroe Middle 8:45-3:45