Archives for category: Georgia

Governor Nathan Deal likes to point out that both his parents taught school, but it’s not clear what kind of school they taught. Clearly he doesn’t like public schools. He has proposed legislation based on Tennessee’s failing “Achievement School District.”

Jack Hassard, a Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Georgia State University, explains that Governor Deal’s plan will set in motion “the infrastructure to tear Georgia’s public schools apart.”

The author of the plan was a young reformer with three years of teaching experience. Her name is Erin Haimes. She has now set up a consulting firm and is being paid to help districts figure out how to avoid the consequences of the law she wrote.

Hassard writes:

“Where does this path take public education in Georgia? It’s a path that is based on fear. It’s a path that is based on competition. It’s a path that is based on greed. It’s a path that is based on opinion and not knowledge.

“As others have said, the plan that will be voted on in the 2016 election, and will be supported by a group that Hames will lead, and will be targeted by organizations and families outside of Georgia who stand to make a financial killing in the state.”

Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County public schools, wrote a strong column opposing Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to takeover “low-performing” schools. Deal wants to copy Tennessee’s faltering “Achievement School District,” which has shown no progress in the past four years. Why anyone would copy a failed model is puzzling.

Lanoue cites several reasons for opposing the state takeovers, the most fundamental being the elimination of local control of schools. He may not have known when he wrote this article that elimination of local control is

He writes:

The Opportunity School District superintendent will have final decision-making authority over all aspects of the school, which would no longer be under the control of local superintendents and school boards. This is in direct contrast to current governance structures in public and charter schools, which require checks and balances through board governance models. In addition, the superintendent would have sole authority to select schools that qualify as “failing” schools. This does not align with the current movement to have more local control, as the selection of schools does not require any level of input by the State Board of Education, local boards of education, local school districts, governance entities or communities. The current budget for this program includes 3 percent administrative costs, and is concerning in this time when public education budgets are already suffering.
Here in Athens-Clarke County, a governance model based on democracy is a cornerstone of how we operate — as it is across the state. To take away democratic principles is monumental and allows Georgia communities to be stripped of their identities as having primary responsibility of educating their children. To impact schools and communities, we must take a collaborative and comprehensive approach to reform centered on the creation of dynamic learning environments strongly joined with quality early literacy; physical and mental health care; and positive and safe home and school environments. In a time where collaboration is the key to systemic change, simply changing governance as the key to reform has a greater result of creating divisions — not unity.
Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve. To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students.

Dr. Jim Arnold, superintendent of the Pelham City schools, explains why Georgia has a teaching shortage. The answer can be summed up in a few words: Governor Nathan Deal and ALEC, and one very long sentence:

Is it any wonder that many teachers have finally reached the point where they are fed up with scripted teaching requirements and phony evaluations that include junk science VAM and furlough days and increased testing that reduces valuable teaching time and no pay raises and constant curriculum changes and repeated attacks on their profession from people that have no teaching experience and the constant attempts to legislate excellence and cut teacher salaries and reduce teacher benefits and monkey with teacher retirement and SLO’s for non-tested subjects and state and federal policies that require more and more paperwork and less and less teaching and tighter and tighter budgets that mean doing more and more with less and less and longer school days and larger classes with higher and higher expectations and a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues and the denigration of public education and market based solutions and legislators bought and paid for by ALEC and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position and top-down management from people that wouldn’t know good teaching if it spit on their shoes and slapped them in the face? No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. No wonder more and more teachers are retiring.

Please read the rest to find out what should be done about Governor Nathan Deal’s embrace of Alec’s agenda to get rid of public education.

Dan DeLamater of Athens, Georgia, is a conservative Republican, a public school parent, and an insurance executive. Maureen Downey posted his article on her blog “Get Schooled” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

DeLamater says he is “disgusted” by Governor Nathan Deal’s proposal for a statewide “opportunity school district,” in which the state would abrogate local control and take over low-performing schools. He wrote: Unfortunately, opportunity in this administration is defined by crony capitalism not beneficial education reform.

DeLamater came to see that ALEC was behind the state takeover plan:

First, we have learned about ALEC, a hideous national legislative-steering organization where lobbyists, private interests, and legislators craft legislation behind closed doors. There is no sunlight on this entity. There is no accountability. Participants are back-room puppet masters controlling the local and national political agenda. Until recently, most of us had no idea it even existed.

Regarding one important topic, ALEC is admittedly and proudly against public education. The for-profit education industry rules ALEC’s agenda here – including testing companies, consultants, for-profit schools. And lest you doubt ALEC’s influence in Georgia, know that state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, has served as National Chairman for ALEC.

Second, we have learned that Gov. Deal has become enamored with state takeover of school districts. The power play topped the governor’s education agenda in the last legislative session, in the form of the legislation to allow a state-wide referendum to create the “Opportunity School District.”

This state takeover is contrary to the long-standing “conservative” mandate of local control within the Republican Party since a state takeover clearly usurps locally elected school boards. This is contrary to any information provided by the governor’s appointed Education Reform Commission as their recommendations are still under construction to this day. This is contrary to our state’s Constitutional mandate as Georgia state government is forbidden to control local school districts.

Third, we know the governor hired an inexperienced but eager-to-lead Erin Hames as his education expert. The statewide-elected Georgia state school superintendent was evidently not an appropriate expert for Gov. Deal. This is not a surprise, of course. After all, Deal has minimized and circumvented the voters’ superintendent for years – John Barge previously and Richard Woods recently.

Hames lobbied for the takeover law, pushed it through the legislature, then–before leaving public employ–created a consulting business to advise districts on how to avoid falling prey to the law she helped to pass.

Her first contract was a no-bid contract with the Atlanta Public Schools for $96,000.

DeLamater writes:

The APS Board has $96,000 available to hire Ms. Hames. I fear for those who are not as fortunate as the APS. Or Gov. Deal. Or Ms. Hames. Or their friends. I wonder where public school children in Georgia fall in this pecking order… you’ll be hard pressed to find their interests represented by anyone involved in this sordid tale.

Columnist Myra Blackmon of Athrns, Georgia, sees through the so-called “reform” movement: its goal is to disrupt and destroy public education.

Blackmon describes the latest shenanigans in Georgia. The Governor’s education aide, Erin Hames, crafted legislation to create an “opportunity school district” modeled on the one that failed in Tennessee. The state will close or take over the lowest scoring schools and hand them to entrepreneurs to run as charters.

Now the Atlanta Public Schools system has hired Hames for $96,000 a year to figure out how to keep its low performing schools from being taken over by the state. So Ms. Hames gets to write the bill, then is hired as a consultant to avoid its consequences.

Blackmon writes:

“If that isn’t sleazy, I don’t know what is. Hames engineered the entire Opportunity School District, complete with junkets to New Orleans and Nashville for key legislators, testimony before committees in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly and God only knows what other dealing. So now, she will go to work for the other side, helping Atlanta’s school system — and any other districts with the money to hire her — avoid what she worked so hard to bring upon them.

“Hames’ credentials as an education expert aren’t at all strong. She taught for three years, then went to law school. Upon completion of her law degree, she immediately went to work on education issues for former Gov. Sonny Perdue. She stayed on with Deal, rising to deputy chief of staff and taking the lead on education issues….

“This is how the self-selected “education reformers” operate. Their motive is profit and personal advancement. They love the idea of schools run by private organizations, staffed with uncertified teachers, cherry-picking the easy students and leaving the most vulnerable students behind. Unproven, invalid standardized tests drive every decision.

“It is disgusting. It is immoral. It is repugnant to every American ideal of community, mutual support and benefit and democratic rule. It defies the values of local control in favor of centralized, easily managed power — all the while claiming “it’s for the children.”

Myra Blackmon, a regular education columnist for Online Athens (Georgia), “almost choked” when she read that Governor Nathan Deal’s education advisor said about the governor’s “reform” commission, “if the group doesn’t recommend doing away with paying for training and experience, then I’m not sure that we’re going to change anything about the way business is done.”

Blackmon pointed out quite correctly that experience matters in teaching as it does in every other important job or profession. So do advanced degrees, as they represent greater knowledge for the teacher of what he or she is teaching. She asks: “Who do we want teaching our children”?

She writes, with more commonsense and knowledge that either Governor Deal or his “expert” education advisor:

First, the assumption that standardized test scores are the sole measure of student achievement is wrong. Standardized tests do a lousy job of measuring in-depth learning. It is very difficult for such tests to assess how well a student understands concepts, applies them across subjects and integrates them into other learning and into everyday life.

It’s easy to assess how well students can spell and define vocabulary words, but standardized tests don’t measure how a student uses those words in conversation, helps others understand what they mean or uses them in an essay in another course.

Second is the assumption that teachers are all that matter in a child’s learning, and that if a child has trouble learning, absent diagnosed disabilities that prevent it, that is all because of the teacher. If you believe that, you know little about the realities of poor children’s lives or the decades of research and documentation about how they learn.

Everything I’ve read says that socioeconomic status is the single largest contributing factor to a child’s academic performance. Poor children start school behind in vocabulary, basic readiness measures and the social skills that kids need to learn in a classroom setting.

My own experience in public schools and my conversations with dozens of teachers in many states confirms what the researchers tell us. A child entering pre-school who has had learning-oriented day care, been read to extensively and had enriching life experiences like travel, is already way ahead of the one who doesn’t know colors, or even how to hold a book. I have seen these children struggle from the first day. It is heartbreaking.

The third assumption is that teaching is simply a technical skill that can be learned by anyone in a relatively short period of time. It is not. Teaching is a complex process that requires understanding of the different ways in which children learn, how to apply multiple teaching methods based on individual needs, how to accurately assess learning and how to respond to the needs of 20 or more children at the same time.

I reject those assumptions, so I reject the premise that we don’t really need to compensate teachers for advanced degrees or years of experience.

Do you want your child taught by the teen next door? By someone who dropped out of high school? By someone who never taught before? Or would you prefer to have an experienced and credentialed teacher?

This is the story of a young man, Paul Serrato, who graduated first in his class at Apalachee High School in Barrett County in Georgia. His parents emigrated from Mexico, where they had hard lives. He too had to work hard. Nothing came easily. Paul understands and acknowledges the sacrifices that others made on his behalf.


He was accepted at Stanford University.


Here is the video of his speech at graduation.


Public education gave him opportunity, and he made the most of it.


My favorite line from his speech: “We may be self-directed, but we were not self-made.” His family, his teachers, his classmates helped him succeed.


This is public education at its finest. Doors open to all, without a lottery.


This community can be proud of its schools.



This column by Jack Hassard is referenced in the previous post by Edward Johnson of Atlanta.


I missed it when it first appeared. I am posting it now because it contains important advice, not only for Georgia, but for other states whose governors want to copy New Orleans and the Tennessee Achievement School District (which so far has not achieved its lofty goal of moving the lowest performing schools in the state to the top 25% of schools in the state). The model legislation comes right from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the rightwing organization that promotes privatization and deregulation for the benefit of corporations.


Hassard writes:


The Opportunity School District, which was proposed by Governor Nathan Deal, is indeed an opportunity. But it is not in the best interests of students and their families in the communities identified as having “chronically failing schools.” The first detail to pull out of Senate Bill 133 is that this bill is nothing short of opening the flood gates for charter schools, which have been documented time and again as not nearly being as effective as “regular” public schools. These schools will replace public schools that have been red-flagged for three consecutive years. The main goal of school will be to get students to score higher on standardized tests. Success will hinge primarily on the test scores in mathematics and reading. Teaching to the test will be the main goal of schooling in the OSD.
In this Senate bill, paragraph after paragraph is devoted to describing how the state will set up a state-wide charter school district for “chronically failing schools.” But here is a real problem for Georgia legislators to consider. The evidence from the New Orleans Recovery School District is that for the most part, schools that were considered failing before they entered the confines of the RSD continued to earn failing grades, stars, or flags–pick your own symbol.


What Governor Deal does not confront is the connection between poverty and test scores. As Hassard shows in another post, 27% of the children in the state of Georgia live in poverty, and nearly 60% are eligible for free- or reduced-price school lunches.


Creating a special school district for the schools attended by children who live in poverty is a high priority for ALEC, but it does nothing to alleviate the lives of these children or to improve their schools. It amounts to kicking the can down the road. It will take a decade to recognize that this remedy didn’t remedy anything that matters. It just delayed the reckoning with the cause of low test scores: high poverty.



Edward Johnson is a citizen of Atlanta who tries to get the school board and city leaders to think of improving the system and to stop looking for quick fixes. At the moment, the quick fix is charter schools, especially the New Orleans “miracle.” This too will pass and another generation will be lost.


Here he writes to the leaders of the city and the schools:



In his latest and recently published book, From School Delusion to Design: Mixed-Age Groups and Values-Led Transformation, and drawing on W. Edwards Deming, Peter Senge, Russell Ackoff, John Seddon (Sir Michael Barber’s antithesis), and such other Systems Thinkers, U.K. educator Peter Barnard begins his Chapter 3, “Complexity and Demand in Systems Thinking,” as follows:


“So in a public service-like school, what exactly is complexity in systems thinking terms? The answer is relatively simple. It is the huge variety of customer value demand on the school’s learning system. The value demand is all that customers need to be able to drawn down from the school to live worthwhile and useful lives. Value demand is defined by the customers and the greater ecological system to which we belong, not just by what the school and the bigger school system decides to offer. In essence, the value demand is all that allows a child to grow and develop into who he or she was meant to be.


“Parents tell us that what they want and value comprises a long list, the variety of value demand. Each is concerned with their unique child. ….


“Any failure to absorb and meet value immediately creates failure demand. Failure demand takes the form of complaints, reworking, dropouts, anti-social behavior, and (of course) a loss of trust and increases in both cost and bureaucracy. The list of failure demand is long and expensive, and weakens the school, causing it to require even more back office staff, more money, and external help. It also makes it more difficult to support new teachers and develop their expertise; the lists goes on and on. It creates a mess that can quickly become a crisis.


“In other words, if the school is unable to absorb the variety of value demand made on its system or simply assumes such demand is being met by the system it has, failure demand is an inevitable consequence. The school, being unable to absorb the complexity of the variety of value demand on its system, tries to control it through limitation and separation, but all that this does is increases complexity (management of failure demand) and make things far worse.”


Today, more than ever, Atlanta Public Schools is being managed and controlled as a “turnaround” opportunity. Unfortunately, no evidence specific to APS exists to support any assumptions the district, any district schools, or anything else about the district requires a turnaround solution. Improvement? Certainly. But turnaround? Don’t be silly. APS is a wondrously complex, multi-directional social system, where any number of matters go on in any number of directions, all at once, all the time. APS is not merely a simplistic un-directional train or automobile going in one direction – the supposed “wrong” direction, so it must be “turned around.” Simplistic solutions applied to complex, dynamic systems invariably generate “failure demand.” (Look at any corporation’s Call Center and you will see failure demand institutionalized.)


Even so, Atlanta school board members and superintendent cling to school reform ideology’s simplistic “turnaround” delusion. They do this because they think only to try to manage and control and ultimately standardize the “huge variety of value demand” that shows up at school every school day, mostly in the form of children. They know not to think to learn to absorb the value demand the children bring with them to school. After all, the children are the students, not them. Their delusive decision to turn APS into a Charter System exemplifies the genesis of the kind of failure demand they generate and then try to manage and control through standardized teaching and learning and performance.


But, of course, the school board’s and superintendent’s decision to turn APS into a Charter System demonstrates they do not know they generate failure demand. Otherwise, they would be providing the district the leadership – servant leadership, in fact – to continually learn to develop the capability to absorb value demand rather than always trying to manage and control it, as by standardizing teaching and learning. Continual learning also requires the ability to unlearn, and unlearning is something they simply will not, and perhaps cannot, do. No matter the evidence, they simply will not or cannot unlearn that all charter schools and such generate failure demand to far greater extents than do any public schools on the commons. “Knowledge has temporal spread,” as one may learn from Deming.


By always trying to manage and control value demand, Atlanta school board members and superintendent constantly rob themselves of learning to provide for principals, teachers, and even children to get knowledge to improve teaching and learning in ways that absorb value demand. And because standardization is their paradigm, and because they have not the capability to do or even think otherwise because “I have been trained to do this work” (Carstarphen) of turning schools around, they have given Governor Nathan Deal great, well, “opportunity” to legislate state takeover of so-called “failing schools” to be handed over to public school privatization interests to operate.


There is a reason Governor Deal calls his New Orleans-style plan “Opportunity School District” (OSD). And it is reasonable to suppose the reason has more to do with Deal providing himself “opportunity” than any children. Governor Deal pretty much proved his OSD plan is a self-serving opportunity when he gave no mind to having been informed there are better ways than state takeover of public schools (see here and here). So let it never be said the Governor had no options.


Actually, it may be a bit too kind to say Atlanta school board members and superintendent are always trying to manage and control value demand. More accurately, it is clear, or it should be clear, that Atlanta school board members and superintendent operate as pass-through agents primarily in service to the interests of philanthropic oligarchs, plutocrats, and corporatists (including, but limited to, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, and Pearson). And nothing more recently demonstrates the fighting they do than Superintendent Carstarphen’s response to Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association’s (FDHSAA) wanting to know the real deal behind the superintendent’s decision to dismiss Douglass High School’s principal. See, copied and inserted below, both FDHSAA’s letter to Carstarphen and Carstarphen’s response.


Note that Carstarphen’s response to the FDHSAA is, in essence, just this (bold emphasis mine):


“I have no idea why people decide to do what they do but this job is for a seasoned ‘turnaround’ principal – no one forced anyone to apply for these SIG [School Improvement Grant] schools. … I can’t discuss the evaluation but I am certain we are making the right decision.”


Well, firstly, in their letter, the FDHSAA does not ask Carstarphen to discuss the principal’s evaluation (and neither do I; see here). Then, secondly, the paper “School Improvement Grants: Ransoming Title I Schools in Distress” makes clear Carstarphen is making the wrong decision, yet a decision Broad, Gates, Obama, and Duncan would likely approve, as would public school privatization interests.


Also note that Carstarphen begins her response to the FDHSAA by expressing being “saddened” by FDHSAA’s letter and characterizing FDHSAA’s concerns as “meanness.” Yet, it is not at all apparent that Carstarphen entertained in the least the thought that perhaps the FDHSAA bothered to write her because of their(!) sense of sadness brought on by Carstarphen’s cruel and mean treatment of their school’s principal and disregard of community.


So, please, let us hear no more disingenuous rhetoric from the Atlanta Board of Education and especially their Superintendent, Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D., about “fighting for the children,” when they make it abundantly clear they fight for and with forces out to destroy public education as a common good, with the consequence of dumping onto the public ever more failure demand.


Clearly, firing Frederick Douglass High School’s principal is just the latest failure demand created by Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Carstarphen. Otherwise, Carstarphen likely would not have received from the Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association a letter that “saddened” her and she perceived to be “meanness.”


By the way, Peter Barnard once offered to travel from the U.K. to visit with our Atlanta Board of Education and Superintendent, all on his own dime. Want to put a wager on your guess of response that came from APS at the Top?


Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
(404) 505-8176 |



Cc: Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association and Members
Cc: Atlanta Board of Education Members and Superintendent
Cc: Atlanta public community organizations and members
Cc: Atlanta City Council Members and Mayor
Cc: Nathan Deal, Governor, State of Georgia (via contact form)



Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association writes:


From: Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association []
To: Carstarphen, Meria


Subject: Seeking Transparency and Accountability





Dr. Meria Carstarphen, Superintendent
Atlanta Public Schools
130 Trinity Avenue, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303


May 15, 2015


Dear Superintendent Carstarphen,


Seeking transparency and accountability, we, The Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association, retired administrator, retired faculty, teachers, parents, and stakeholders, met with you and your selected staff on Tuesday, May 13, 2015, at 9:15 a.m. We were shocked and dismayed that you reported to us that Frederick Douglass High School, under the leadership of Dr. Tony L. Burks, II, had made …”no progress”. This is quite different from our own research and observations. We have read the Douglass January 2015 summary report, excellent commendations, and comments from the State, and we are confused as to why Dr. Burks was not allowed to complete the 2015-2016 suggestions in the Transformation Model. We noticed on the web that the recruitment for a new principal is listed as a Turnaround Model instead of the Transformation Model that Dr. Burks was implementing under his administration. The State summary reveals that Douglass is on a trajectory for success. We came as supporters of Dr. Burks and, more importantly, the children who need a stable learning environment.


The mentoring piece supposedly done by Dr. Timothy Gadson, III was lacking to say the least. Dr. Gadson stated first he met monthly with Dr. Burks. Additional questions led Dr. Gadson to the modification that he texted and e-mailed the principal daily. Surely, being a qualified professional administrator, Dr. Gadson recognizes that mentoring involves more than a text or an email. The mentoring by him was not a collaborative effort as he suggested. He later stated he came out after the end of the first semester (February). If he had read the State January 2015 commendation documents, he could have provided support and recommended to you that Dr. Burks be allowed to continue the implementation of the Transformation Model instead of immediately placing him on a PDP in March, especially since leadership was one of the commendations listed by the State. We now know that it is within the Superintendent’s power to allow Douglass to continue under the Transformation Model given the upward trajectory indicated in the State summary document.


We provided some data to you and your staff of the proud history of our school. We shared our concerns with you. You stated that you would get in touch with the State and provide clarifications in regards to Governor Nathan Deal’s letter of leadership commendation to Dr. Burks and the SIG grant. We were to work on a Plan of Action.


As of today, we have not gotten any feedback on the clarifications you volunteered to get. There was no plan of action. In fact, the only thing we did was to establish a follow-up June 3, 2015, meeting at 9:00 a.m., which comes directly after the June Board Meeting. To be transparent and honest, we feel our meeting with you on Tuesday was simply to neutralize us, while you went ahead with your plans.


Errors in communication were made when Dr. Gadson scheduled a community meeting on the same date and time as the seniors’ graduation Visions of the Future program. To schedule a community meeting on May 19, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. to tell the Douglass family of the removal of Dr. Burks as principal for 2015-2016 in the midst of their graduation is totally insensitive to the seniors with whom he has worked during this school year. Dr. Gadson had to hurriedly change the community meeting date to May 20, 2015, at 6:00 p. m., which is still in the midst of the students’ celebratory graduation activities with their families. Once again, this provides evidence that Dr. Gadson is unaware of what is going on in this school.


We are insulted with your disrespect in not being transparent. You did not make us aware of the community meetings, even though the APS Ombudsman collected our signatures and email addresses on Tuesday. In fact, being honest, you should have told us of your plans (meeting with faculty, letters given out to students, meeting with community), while we were at the Tuesday meeting. Our voice will be heard! We shall proceed with our project and pray that you and your administration will make decisions for the advancement of the children. The children, teachers and parents at Douglass need to hear from you. We encourage you, as the head of this administration, to be available to hear and respond to the concerns of the students, teachers, parents and community.


We have many alumni who live in cities across this nation and abroad. Because of this, we are requesting live streaming of this meeting on May 20, 2015, at 6:00 p. m. If this is impossible, please allow us to have a professional, independent person to videotape the meeting. Please let us know of your decision, so we will know how to plan accordingly.




Frederick Douglass Alumni Association


Hardy Blash, President
Judy Davis Carroll, Presenting Board Member




From: “Carstarphen, Meria”
Date: May 15, 2015 at 7:50:45 PM EDT
To: ‘Frederick Douglass High School Alumni Association’


Subject: RE: Seeking Transparency and Accountability


Dear Mr. Blash,


I am so saddened by this letter. It is just mean. I did not create this Douglass situation and did not act in any way that was not transparent or disrespectful in our meeting. At the request of the alumni association I met with you as soon as I get it into my schedule without delay. How could I plan to “neutralize” people when I didn’t even know you and wasn’t the person who asked for the meeting. Given the tone of this letter, I suspect that if I had not had the meeting you would be criticizing me for not meeting with you. Goodness, no good deed…


As for the next date to meet, I wasn’t even in the room when you came up with it. My schedule is completely crazy this time of year. I thought we agreed we were going to work on understanding the history more and what you all could teach me so that we could rebuild it again. In that meeting I was clear: the current principal is not coming back next year but I did want to work with you all to plan for the future. I cannot wait on the interview process to ensure we have quality, viable candidates to consider. This is the time of year principals are looking and we don’t want to have to wait until the end of the summer like last year to rush and find candidates.


I have no idea why people decide to do what they do but this job is for a seasoned “turnaround” principal – no one forced anyone to apply for these SIG schools. It’s clear you have to be a turnaround principal and that’s why the State sits in the room. And, yes, while we mentor and support, all principals must still do their jobs and more so in these type roles. Blaming other people is not going to change our decision. I can’t discuss the evaluation but I am certain we are making the right decision.


I have no idea why you are saying I didn’t give you feedback on the state call. I told you in the meeting – you all were waiting for me to get off the phone so I could share. I then shared the feedback as soon as I walked back in the room. And, further, yes, I did find out about the letter from Governor Deal – it’s a form type letter that is written by the Office of Constituent Services for people who apparently ask for one. This one was requested by someone in Butler, GA…no idea the connection. Anyway, that’s what I learned.


The community was noticed by letter about the change in leadership. The meeting is about the first step in the principal selection process. The communication in the date was not messed up by our central office staff. The draft was shared with principal and he probably accidentally sent out the draft because the draft did not have a signature on it. It was corrected immediately.


As we originally agreed, yes, I would love to have your guidance on how we can help the school. It would be my hope that it could be done in a way that inspires us all.


I love this district, this city and these children. I will do whatever I have to do to ensure they get the quality education they deserve. I will never apologize for that.


Finally, I do appreciate your email and do still look forward to working with you.





Phil Lanoue, the superintendent of schools in Athens, Georgia, offered his teachers a reward: those with perfect attendance would get a day off. Some teachers resisted the offer because they didn’t want to miss their classes.


He and other administrators became substitute teachers for those who accepted the day off. He taught a class in life science.


He wrote:



While the original idea was to reward teachers, I know it ended up making far more of an impact on those of us who walked in their shoes for a day.



At the end of the day, he had new respect for his teachers:



I made it through the day, exhausted, and having developed an even deeper understanding and appreciation for our teachers. I tried to make my teaching interesting, interactive and relevant, but I could see that there was something that only the regular classroom teacher could offer: the foundation of strong relationships.

Teachers connect with students in many ways and are so familiar with their strengths and areas of growth. They know the struggles they are facing, what gets them excited and how to say just what a student needs to hear — and when they need to hear it. They know when to push and when to hold back. Knowing that our students walk into our classrooms and are met by such caring individuals is everything — our teachers go the distance to ensure that students receive what they need — academically, social/emotionally and more.

I left Hilsman Middle School that day with a lot more than tired, achy feet from being in a teacher’s shoes. I left seeing firsthand that our students can truly receive no better education than in the Clarke County School District because of the tireless work of our teachers. The design of the lessons, the relationships that are built, the digital learning, the International Baccalaureate framework, the opportunities available through our partnerships — I am truly humbled. I am humbled to work with an incredible community of individuals who are committed to the wellbeing of our students.

I encourage all interested community members to consider volunteering at one of our schools next year so that they, too, can be a part of this incredible Clarke County School District community. Spend time in our classrooms, and gain a renewed sense of why Athens-Clarke County has every reason to be “Proud To Be CCSD.”




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