John Konop On Public Schools

April 10, 2014 15:00 pm

by Charlie · 11 comments

The AJC’s Maureen Downey posted a guest Op-Ed today from frequent Peach Pundit commented John Konop.  (Look at the link too for some news on Cherokee County’s ongoing school board drama).  But the meat of what you need to read is this:

“However, some local politicians and political groups use “school improvement issues” as a way to tear down our school system in service to an anti-public-school ideology. Not only is this counterproductive and not in the best interest of Cherokee students and families, it hurts home values. I have been a loud voice for creating more school options, but have always been careful to appreciate and build on our community school system’s existing successes.

 ”This November, let’s elect candidates who are committed to supporting and improving our existing school system — and reject those who spew negative, anti-public-school talking points. People move to and invest in communities based in large part on the positive information they hear about its schools. We need to turn-off voices that offer only spin and exaggeration in an effort to grab power at the expense of our neighborhoods.”

Too many are using any problem they can find within a public school or a public school system to grind their anti-government ax.  We have public schools for a reason.  We as a country from our very beginning have decided that society is better off with an educated citizenry.  Too many have fallen into lazy rhetoric with regards to public schools where identifying problems are an excuse to point and laugh at how stupid government is.  Too many of these same people refuse to engage in any discussion of how to fix these problems, as simply recognizing a problem but absolving ourselves of any duty to fix it is acceptable.  It is not.

jpm April 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Mr. Konop and Mr. Harper are right as far as they took their thoughts. The next step in the process must be that not all issues can be lumped in with “anti-public schools”, or filed under grinding an “anti-government ax” if the goal is to improve our system.

IF our goal is to continue to provide an excellent learning system then we must be honest in recognition & admission that there are areas to improve; then work to resolve real problems. We must also be willing to separate legitimate issues from the junk. In Cherokee County the shrill tone the extremes from both ends has drowned out the middle where people want to work to resolve the issues – I condemn the extremes as they rob all of us. I’m not perfect and like most activist in the district have wondered into extremity. Again, John and Charlie are right as far as they went in their statements.

CCSD has problems and not the issues one hears about in the local papers or parroted in the AJC or the local organs. CCSD’s cohort graduation rates last year were below the average rate for the entire State of Tennessee or NC. We barely edged out Alabama’s state average in CCSD. That was after an 8% improvement overall from the year before. We can improve. CCSD’s bond rating has been reduced due to amount of our debt. Going from AAA to AA may not sound like much but when our debt is more than both our operating and debt service budget combined PLUS 10% it becomes pretty obvious why our general fund is suffering – which is why the credit agency cut our rating as debt outstrips income. So when you hear a CCSD teacher legitimately complaining it is because our general operating fund is being overtaken by debt service. Roughly 1/3rd of our total school budget goes to pay our debt per the system’s website. We can do better. The last 3 schools replaced were replaced before the existing school buildings had seen 50% of life expectancy per local papers within the county. An inquiry to the superintendent’s office regarding ET Booth MS showed that the cost to make repairs AND expand the school 25% was estimated by school administration to cost $18 million. However, the administration recommended replacement and the board approved a replacement school for over $35 million. We can do better – but first we have to honestly recognize these as problems and work together to find solutions.

We – you – can not stifle people wanting to fix issues and lump every problem into an anti-government or anti-public school category. Recognition and then trying to find solutions is not grinding an ax against public schools or government. That is what citizens are suppose to do if we want a better system.

John Konop April 10, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Jpm,

I agree with you with some of the issues you brought up.

1) The graduation rate is improving via the focus on vo- tech, the new on line home school option should via flexability for students that need to work and the alternative high school at night.

2) As far as the overhead ie debt issue….as you know I have been advocating cross utization of buildings at night with colleges and vo- tech schools which would provide more access and lower overhead. Janet Reed has been very open to the idea. Also the online school option should also increase options and lower overhead.

3) The promoting of co op/ internships for students via the chamber, county and schools would have a major impact on quality of hands on education, increase tax revanue and attrack new business to Cherokee county. Once again the school board has been open to the concept.

The AP level education is very good in Cherokee as demonstrated by nation ranking of 3 high schools on top 10 in nation, SAT scores always near the top in the state and strong passing rate on AP classes.

mpierce April 11, 2014 at 1:24 am

“The AP level education is very good in Cherokee as demonstrated by nation ranking of 3 high schools on top 10 in nation”

Got a link?

Of Georgia’s 54 2014 AP MERIT SCHOOLS, none came from Cherokee County.

John Konop April 11, 2014 at 9:47 am

This is a classic example of what I am talking about…..People cherry pick facts out of context, using spin to support their agenda…..Clearly Cherokee has an very good AP program, and has top notch SAT scores…..You can see how MP leaves out all the facts……This style of politics insults the students, teachers, parents…..while downgrading home values…As I have said numerous times, we need improvement, but this throw baby out with the bath water spewing, hurts communities….

FACTS:

Cherokee high schools among top in nation

http://www.cherokeetribune.com/view/full_story/24901955/article-Cherokee-high-schools-among-top-in-nation?instance=home_top_bullets

All six Cherokee high schools named AP Honor Schools

http://www.cherokeetribune.com/view/full_story/24901955/article-Cherokee-high-schools-among-top-in-nation?instance=home_top_bullets

All six Cherokee high schools named AP Honor Schools

http://www.cherokeetribune.com/view/full_story/24652601/article-All-six-Cherokee-high-schools-named-AP-Honor-Schools

Cherokee County SAT scores: Highest in state followed by Fulton, Oconee, Decatur and Forsyth

http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/09/27/cherokee-county-sat-scores-highest-in-state-followed-by-fulton-oconee-decatur-and-forsyth/

ryanhawk April 11, 2014 at 4:14 pm

And yours is a classic example of what I’m talking about. I’m sure Cherokee County schools are above average for Georgia as defined by test scores. But how “good” is that? And what if parents want to look beyond test scores or have a different view of what constitutes a “good” school? These are fair questions and people who ask such questions don’t “hate” public schools. They just love kids and want a school that works for every kid.

John Konop April 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Ryan,

In reality high end 4 year college kids do very well in most of the north metro suburbs……Our son graduated in 12 out of Cherokee county and all the kids that got into Georgia Tech are doing well…

In my opinion we should look at educationn outside of test scores…..I have stated numerous times that school systems should be judged on students having skills for jobs and or placement into higher education….over raw scores….the end result is what matters not a score…..

jpm April 11, 2014 at 11:01 am

Mr. Konop –
Improvements in the cohort grad rates will improve if your recommendation is adopted. Statistics indicate a modest improvement – but an improvement that I support. Remember CCSD had vocational tech until just a few years ago so we had a model for vo-tech at least at Etowah until our son graduated in 2008. I serve on the Superintendent’s Graduation Rate Improvement Ad Hoc Committee that is VERY ably led by Brian Hightower. I personally support the solutions you have proposed and believe them to be among many things we need to do. Oddly enough – the committee figured FORCING borderline students to read Beowulf is pushing our borderline students toward drop out and our curriculum may be changed to find something that meets State requirements that a 16 year may enjoy better than struggling through Beowulf. We came up with a dozen or so recommendations and then narrowed down for noodling on further. The Ad Hoc Committee has not wrapped up or made presentation to Frank or the BOE. The reason we jumped from 72.67% to 78+% last year were for a lot of reasons with the largest reason being that the administration did a better job tracking withdrawals. Inadequate documentation or impossible being able to track about 300+ withdrawals counts negatively in the formula numerator for the cohort grad number. I am optimistic that Dr. Hightower will provide good solutions. We will see what Frank accepts and takes to the BOE. Some of the recommendations to improve are strictly within Frank’s control to implement. Some will require BOE approval, some will require the State to fund further. To get more State funding will require details to the plans so more work is required. Dr. Hightower is aware of two specific concerns I have that will constrain the cornerstone recommendation regarding grad. coaches if [in my view] grad coaches will TRULY be successful. Grad coaches are a separate subject.

Our mutual point is we need to work together to recognize real problems and work together to find solutions. We need to reject and ignore what I would refer to as the “anti-Frank” and the “anti-Marlow” crowds as both are dragging us all down. We as citizens need to insure the Franks’ and Kelly’s know we expect them to put aside pettiness and lead to the solutions and not be poster children for extremist.

We don’t need victims running CCSD – we need leadership. The ballot is one form. Those we vote for listening to us is the best fix; they can not belittle us and ignore us – they have to listen. Recall one past BOE member told citizens if they did not like how he was running the BOE they should move out of the County? We need to get that type of elected person to listen to people and not be closed to proposed changes.

Thanks for starting this discussion and maybe the readers will help us stop lumping all discussion not led by the administration into grinding an ax against public schools or government. We all have to work together to get better.

John Konop April 11, 2014 at 11:15 am

Thanks for your effort! Below is a link to the alternative program I was talking about, that I heard helped with graduation rates….Please feel free to contract me if I can help you…..I agree a 100% with your post…

http://www.cherokee.k12.ga.us/Schools/polaris/default.aspx

ryanhawk April 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm

If that is the meat, I’ll stick to veggies.

Which politicians and “political groups” tear down the public schools? I can’t name a single one. These are strong claims — false in my view — and surely they could be buttressed by an example or two of high profile politicians or well established “political groups” if true. Sure some troll/idiot on the internet may do so, but an elected official or established education reform group? I don’t think so.

From what I see most politicians go overboard offering pious praise of public schools even when the whole truth is somewhat less flattering. I’ve yet to see any elected Georgia politician present a reasonably fair or accurate assessment of where our public schools stand in relation to global competitors. Instead they fawn over one school by comparing it to the worst schools in Georgia. Due to this, parents usually have no idea how their schools and teachers actually stack up against global competitors. Sure the average (or best) Cherokee County Schools look good when compared to the worst schools in Georgia, but how do they look against schools from similar areas in other states or nations?

The truth is that too many of those who expect better and are working towards overturning a corrupt status quo are unfairly tarred with vague and unsubstantiated “why do you hate public schools” slander on a fairly regular basis.

seenbetrdayz April 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Why do you hate America?

(sorry, couldn’t resist)

Raleigh April 11, 2014 at 4:55 am

Just wow, Antigovernment? This takes it to a whole new level. The superintendent and the setting school board vowed to never allow a charter school in Cherokee County. After the state stepped it and they could no longer stop it then there was talk of creating magnet schools. Where are those magnet schools? A little competition will not hurt public schools. Let’s not forget the unnecessary high debt load. To label people who have issues with the public school system and want more choices as antigovernment is beyond ridiculous.

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