Open Letter To DeKalb County Community -Karen Carter, J.D.

Guest Post From Karen Carter:

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”   Nelson Mandela

I would like to thank Governor Deal for appointing me to serve on the DeKalb County School Board. I also want to thank the parents, community partners and friends of the DeKalb County School District for the opportunity to serve our county and the 100,000+ boys and girls enrolled in our schools. It has been my honor to attend open houses, PTA and school council meetings, to release diplomas, to participate in school festivals, and honor programs for our gifted and talented students. Thank you teachers for being open to a new board that has sought to partner with you, for your continuous hard work and efforts to give our students the greatest learning experiences possible.

Time has flown as we have moved from a district on the edge of the unknown to one that is at the forefront of providing great opportunities to our students. When I began this journey 22 months ago, our school district was in trouble: a significant budget deficit, underachieving schools and students, loss of trust within the system, the community and across the county; and threatened loss of accreditation.  In partnership with the Superintendent, this board, made up of diverse individuals with a wealth of varied experiences and expertise has turned our district around. While we are not perfect, all knowing, and don’t always agree, we do have common ground from which to work.  We agree that our children are most important to this county.

To this end, we were tasked with helping them achieve academic success through a high quality educational experience that meets their individual and collective learning needs. We understood and covenanted that as a Board, our role has, and continues to be, that of setting policies that support academic achievement, financial accountability/sustainability, and community engagement that advances student growth. This Board has been committed to the common goal of ensuring access for all students’ to the instructional resources (teachers, classrooms and technology) that promote life-long learning and competency for 21st century leadership in whatever area they pursue.

DeKalb County School District is making progress toward that goal. In the two years that I have served with this board our district has improved its administrative processes, eliminated the budget deficit and established a fund balance of $31 million dollars. These improvements allowed us to increase the budgeted funds that directly support instruction, expanding programs to support career and college readiness, and implementing programs and strategies to narrow the achievement gap. These initiatives have and will improve the results for all students regardless of gender, race or neighborhood.

I want to thank the Superintendent and his team for their commitment to serving all boys and girls in the district, our board secretary, Margaret Francois, and most of all my fellow board members. I value the work we have labored to do together, I appreciate the time spent learning from one another and how we have each come to view the district through diverse lenses. Moreover, I will cherish the friendships formed as we have strived to strike that delicate balance between our role in strengthening board governance and monitoring district operations.

I look forward to using the experiences gained to continue to support the academic achievement and success of all students throughout this county and the state of Georgia.

 

 

Sincerely,

Karen Carter, District 8

“The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.”      – Aristotle

4 comments

  1. Dave Bearse says:

    Thanks for your good service.

    I’m not optimistic however that the rate of progress will continue, especially given the process that resulted in the penultimate selection of chiseler Crawford Lewis seems to be repeating itself, e.g. dragging on and opaque.

  2. bgsmallz says:

    Thanks for your service. I completely agree that this board along with the interim superintendent did great work in addressing the multitude of issues that caused the system to be put on probation.

    However, what is troubling are the signals being sent that success is achieved by a budget surplus and ‘not being on probation.’

    The superintendent’s office recently spent education funds to prepare a report on annexation impact of Druid Hills into the city of Atlanta. Many pages of this report were spent comparing tax rates of non-education services like police, fire, and general obligation bonds. That’s completely inappropriate, possibly illegal, and is clearly educational dollars that are being misallocated. Those are the types of reports and discretionary spending habits that got the system put on probation…yet no one has blinked an eye.

    The report claims that DCSS is about school choice…while ironically the decision to deny the Druid Hills Charter cluster…the overwhelming choice of parents and families in the Druid Hills area…is most certainly a driving factor behind this annexation movement. (The report is also factually inaccurate…if we are going to use education dollars trying to prop-up the county operations, can’t we at least make sure they are right?)

    The county school system still has the highest millage rate in the state. Mr. Thurmond loves to point out that the district didn’t raise taxes….of course they didn’t, they are already at the state cap!

    We are still running above the constitutional limit of students to teachers. We have 5,000 more students and 800 less teachers than in 2009.

    We have yet to make any meaningful cuts in staff at the district office.

    We have a superintendent search that is going on in the worst possible way.

    We have CCRPI scores that are below the state average in Elementary, Middle, and HS.

    Again…I can’t thank you and others enough for your service. But what I truly hope for from those stepping off the board and the interim super is that rather than trumpeting ‘getting off probation’ that you would charge those taking office to work to fix the real and dire issues still facing the system.

  3. Progressive Dem says:

    Ironically the Superintendent left out the most straightforward comparisons of education costs. Atlanta Public Schools have a lower millage rate and a higher homestead exemption than Dekalb. He does point out sanitation costs will be higher in Atlanta, and incorrectly comments on water and sewer and taxes. Where is his focus??? DeKalb schools have been mired in lawsuits and he wants to continue the tradition of spending an inordinate amount of school resources on lawyers and lobbyist by throwing another $2.5 million in the legal fund.

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