Assistant Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen Resigning from CSD Effective June 28th

As is apparently mentioned deep within the personnel report submitted to the School Board at the June 11th meeting, Assistant Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen is leaving his position at City Schools of Decatur effective June 28th.  In a note addressed to a parent and posted on the Winnona Park message board, Mr. Van Soelen detailed his future plans…

I started my own educational consulting firm focused on learning communities, leadership development, and teacher evaluation.

Despite some tough conversations and inquiries over the years, Mr. Van Soelen has always been an accommodating, friendly and knowledgeable contact for us.  We certainly wish him the best!

Discussing Decatur School Enrollment: Today and Into the Future

Attached to the Superintendent’s note to the Decatur School Board for next week’s meeting is an enrollment update for the coming school year.  Enrollment opened up in February and continues throughout the summer.

The enrollment committee, made up of CSD staff and residents, recommended earlier this year that the Board use a “one-year cohort ratio” to determine enrollment for coming years.  If I recall correctly, this was because enrollment had been growing so rapidly in the last year or so that a three or five year average was thought to likely underestimate next year’s enrollment.

As noted in the attachment, “The aggressive one-­‐year cohort ratio anticipated that up to 384 new students may enroll for the 2012-­‐2013 school year. At the time of this writing, 250 students have enrolled.”  Among the individual grades, Kindergarten, 1st and 12th grade have already met or surpassed their projections.

With all this in mind, I followed up with Asst. Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen to get the administration’s take on these enrollment levels to-date.  Here’s his thoughtful reply in full…

Dr. Edwards commissioned an Enrollment Committee Fall 2011 (parents and staff) to engage in learning around the following two questions:

  1. How might we accurately predict the enrollment trends for the future?
  2. How might our buildings best be used to plan for that uncertain future?

The committee worked intensely for several months and offered a presentation and report to the Board 011012:

Recommendations begin on page 13 and include several actions that are relevant to some of the ideas that emerged in a previous post about the central office:

  1. Surveying the community for data regarding birth-age four children
  2. enrollment calculations

We used a one-year cohort ratio analysis to project 12-13 enrollment. Prior to the 12-13 school year, either two-year or three-year cohort ratios were used (see the report for the math about how these ratios work.) The committee noted that with the burgeoning enrollment of birth-age five children, a more aggressive formula was warranted. The Board has been considering 12-13 enrollment reports at each Board meeting. Here is a link to the most recent report.

Continue reading “Discussing Decatur School Enrollment: Today and Into the Future”

CSD New Student Registration for Next Year Starts Today!

Assistant Superintendent Thomas van Soelen forwards this soft-copy of a postcard that went out to Decatur households a couple weeks back, reminding soon-to-be CSD parents that they can begin registering their children – who plan to attend Decatur schools next year, but currently do not attend – today at the Central Office at Westchester.

CSD Advisory Committee Projects Future Enrollment Increases, Makes Recommendations to Board

Back in late 2011, Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards commissioned four committees to tackle some of the school system’s most pressing issues: Enrollment, Engagement, Transportation and Start/End times.  Each committee is made up of both CSD staff and members of the community.  (Disclosure: I’m currently serving on the engagement committee)

Last night, two of the committees, Enrollment and Engagement, presented to the School Board.  The Enrollment committee’s findings – presented by Asst. Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen were extensive and, I’m guessing, will be quite interesting to many of you.

First off, Mr. Van Soelen’s entire presentation, which is full of information, is available to everyone HERE.  I’ll try to hit most of the high-points.

First off, you’ll probably be interested in this historical enrollment graph above which shows you the extent of CSD’s highs and lows over the last 50 years.  It shows quite clearly that the 12% jump this past year was indeed unprecedented as well the significant enrollment declines during the 1970s.

Among the other most interesting findings by the committee:

Decatur Leads the Way in New Teacher Evaluation Method

CSD has posted the full article, featured in yesterday’s print edition of the AJC, detailing Decatur’s relatively new teacher evaluation methods that may soon become the standard for the entire state.

City Schools of Decatur, a 3,250-student district, is among the first Georgia systems taking a different approach to rating teachers, one that recognizes some teachers are better than others and scores them accordingly. Similar changes are headed to school districts across Georgia in the coming years.

The goal is to build a better teaching workforce by getting help to those who need it, learning from those who don’t and firing those who are beyond repair.

“It’s in the middle of everything we do, rather than a necessary evil,” said Decatur Associate Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen, who oversees the evaluation process.



Nothing like a post title where of three of the four words are acronyms!

Asst. Superintendent Thomas van Soelen writes in to let us know that the City Schools of Decatur has created a helpful “Frequently Asked Questions” page for the “Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax”, which goes before voters for another vote this November.

The page features a list of 13 “frequently asked questions”, including “What is the education SPLOST?”, “What is decision-making process for a SPLOST approval?”, “How much revenue can CSD expect to bring in from the SPLOST?”, and “Can the Superintendent or staff advocate for or against the SPLOST referendum?”.

Probably some of the most interesting pieces of info are in response to questions 8 & 9.  They read as follows…

8. What kinds of projects are slated for the SPLOST IV if approved?

Potential projects include the following: continued classroom renovation at RMS, renovation of the old gym at RMS into classrooms, acquisition of facilities leased by CSD such as ECLC and 5th Avenue, payment of debt related to the General Obligation Bond, the creation of a new Central Office Building, energy-efficiency changes for HVAC and other units in the schools and additional elementary classrooms.

9. Why would a central office building be included?

Central Office employees have been working out of the Westchester building. If enrollment continues to rise, the building may again be needed to house students. The administration has looked at the possibility of renting space within the city. The approximate annual rental cost of $250,000 must come from general funds, not SPLOST funds.

In addition to the FAQ, the page features links to a SPLOST presentation, photos of completed projects, a full project list and a SPLOST resolution.

What’s With Long Tardy Slip Lines at Decatur High School?

A Decatur High School parent wrote in the other day…

My two high school students have reported that DHS is having massive lines of kids waiting for “tardy slips” in the morning. One morning kid #1 was not in his seat when the 8:00am bell rang, sent to attendance office, stood in line for 15-20 minutes, BUT the line behind him was out the front door. He estimated 50 kids behind him. Other child reports kids showing up at the very end of first period this week, with several saying they had to stand in long lines for “tardy slips.”

With the DHS start time moved up to 8:00, is anyone tracking the consequences???

Asst. Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen provided this explanation…

DHS is teaching a life skill about being punctual (see Maureen Downey’s editorial in the AJC). This isn’t a new lesson to be taught at DHS, but the follow-through is more complete this year. Thus, it is hard to compare last year’s data to this year’s. A more streamlined process has been developed at the attendance office to get kids to classes further. For instance, on 8/15, the line had dissipated by 8:15.