Historic vote on charter ‘cluster’ could create model for… | www.myajc.com


Historic vote on charter ‘cluster’ could create model for… | www.myajc.com

For the first time in Georgia, parents and teachers will decide whether to convert a group of public schools into an autonomous “cluster” of charter schools, potentially setting a precedent to be copied in other areas.

At stake Tuesday at the Druid Hills High School gymnasium is the education of about 5,000 students at seven schools — and the tax dollars that flow to them.

Even if the measure passes, it will still require the approval of the county school board and then the state.

Some worry the charter cluster could be the first step toward a chaotic breakup of the DeKalb school district or that it will sap resources from other parts of the county. Charter proponents say they want to liberate teachers and administrators from central office edicts that waste time and money and undermine academics. They want unfettered authority over academics and staffing matters such as hiring, firing and pay.

“The idea here is we can have a healthier school system if the principals have the flexibility to run it,” said Matthew Lewis, who is leading the effort and will hold a seat on the local governing board if the charter is approved. The current county bureaucracy is inefficient because “decisions have to go all the way up and get kicked around and come all the way back down” before they’re implemented, he said.The vote Tuesday under a never-before-exercised state law is only for parents of children who live within the attendance zones of the schools — not just the parents of students at those schools — and for the teachers and administrators who work at them.

The charter petition covers Druid Hills High School and the schools that send it students: Druid Hills Middle and Avondale, Briar Vista, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge and McLendon elementary schools. The schools would remain part of the district and would fall under its accreditation, but they would enjoy a measure of independence.

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