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Misleading Forums and Mistrust of Parent Boards Rampant In Anti Charter School Propaganda

Self interest groups and inaccurate legislator interpretations muddle understanding and purpose of the charter school referendum that's on the November ballot. Children's learning is at stake.

Know For Yourself (Lest You Be Enabled)

A church going man sought a clean life so that he can get into heaven.  Feeling concerned about getting drunk he went to his Pastor to confess.  His Pastor told him, don’t worry about it, a little spirit never hurt anybody.  Later the man returned to confess another failing.  Again he Pastor made him feel good about the slip up stating, “even King David had multiple wives.”  Heading home that very day the man was killed in a car accident, standing before God to atone for his sins he learned that he was condemned for hell.  The man asked, but Lord, why didn’t my Pastor tell me I’d end up in this state?  To that God replied, ask him the next time you see him. 

Like faith, we need to know some things for ourselves.  Getting understanding is key to good decision making and as much as we can we should listen to or read for ourselves direct sources for information.  For Georgians, both the Presidential Election and the Charter School Referendum puts much at stake.  The latter is as murky as the former as we consider ways to step towards shoring up secondary education.  Many people sending out information about the November ballot question are tied to powerful stakeholders shaping their thinking and confusing the facts.  The reality of challenges in our education system, and the effects on the future of children is too often lost in the equation.

An Issue of Power and Trust

Three years ago Lindley Middle School in Mableton was a nightmare.  In an August article in South Cobb Patch, editor Kiri Walton wrote that the NEA ranked the school one of the most violent in the state.  It had been in “Needs Improvement” status for six years until Sandra Ervin, the principal who was part of a failed effort to bring Teach for America assistance to South Cobb took the helm.  With her leadership the violence all but disappeared from Lindley and the school became a Title 1 Distinguished School.  As reported in an August South Cobb Patch article, then teacher and newly appointed assistant principal Sabrina Richardson stated, “Her passion for these kids cannot be denied. She made a difference in the lives of our three sons,” Robinson said. “I think she had a lot of heart and a lot of drive. She had a vision. She shared her vision and then she did it. She should start her own school.”  Perhaps she could, but not likely without a charter school amendment.  Cobb County School Board has been slow to approve charter schools.  Many would argue that the teachers like the Coach Carters, Michelle Rhees and Sandra Ervins of the world are the reasons we need to allow teachers to lead in classroom learning reforms.  We already know that teacher directed classrooms work, but are hampered by excessive testing, stagnant administrative systems, and improperly prioritized funding.  One Question is: Which locally controlling group would you most trust to give teachers the wings to teach; a district wide school board, or a school specific governing board?  

Parents to the Rescue?

Parents are the controlling force in petitioning for a charter.  One argument that continually surfaces from opponents of the measure is that charter schools are not locally controlled.  South Cobb State House Representative David Wilkerson, who voted against HR1162 held an event last night at Trinity Tabernacle Church.  He was accompanied by two professional teacher associations who openly advocated against the amendment.  The message from the panel was that charter schools are run and  controlled by state bureaucracies and profit focused management companies.  Wilkerson told the small gathering that independent public charter schools don’t have parental control as touted.  That sentiment doesn’t pass the fact check.  The International Academy of Smyrna, the lone charter school in Smyrna, was once managed by a company.  Not liking the results they were getting from Imagine, the school’s self directed Board of Governors took upon themselves to fire Imagine.  This fact flies in the face of the argument that charter schools operate without parental involvement in running the school.  The growing charter school’s Governing board has 3 parents and 4 community members including a former Smyrna City Councilman and the Assistant City Manager.  Pro-independent charter school parents Claudia and Javier Vietti point to naysayers like Representative David Wilkerson with puzzlement.  “How can a politician claim to care about schools in his own district, while misleading parents to believe that charter schools will be run by the state with a management company having ultimate power?  Smyrna’s charter school is a perfect example of the exact opposite of what he is asserting.  At the surface it seems that Wilkerson is pandering to union like pro teacher associations.  It is unfortunate that teachers are being manipulated into thinking charter schools are a threat to teachers.”  Representative Wilkerson said that he is supportive of charter schools, just not the commission.  Wilkerson and the teacher association spokespeople were openly invited to a non-partisan forum and informative session on charter schools that will take place on Thursday October 4th 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. in Smyrna.  A short movie will precede the presentation at 6:15 p.m. Panelists and location will be announced here in future blog posts.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Leo Smith September 24, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I appreciate your time on this Mr. Wilkerson. What many want to do is give more power to parents for the very concerns you express. History has proven that where politicians fail to represent the needs of citizens, where ethics in the legislators spin out of control, parents and citizens who feel the effect at home mobilize and act. This movement is about taking back our schools from people. It is not a bad idea from a citizen perspective to have MORE LOCAL CITIZENS involved in creating educational opportunity. To have MORE options. We must commit to a strategy to break through this status quo mentality. As I've said before, get more people at the local level involved and empowered, expand the stakeholders and constituency base, educate about the shared pain of the QBE issue, and your case will improve. That is certainly something I am willing to help with. Doing the same thing and getting the same result is not a winning option.
David Wilkerson September 24, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Mr. Fernald, first thanks for stepping up and going into the schools. This sounds like an unacceptable situation that those kids cant read. I have never seen that in the schools I volunteer, so please provide more details. You may be hesitant to call out a particular school, but this shouldnt continue. Please post the school and I will contact the Superintendent’s office today to see what can be done.
David Wilkerson September 24, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Mr. Smith. I agree with parents getting involved. I am still lost how giving the Governor more power and control over money makes me me empowered as a parent. As I asked the other night. Is it about options or achievement? Which is more important to you?
Leo Smith September 25, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Representative Wilkerson wrote: "As I asked the other night. Is it about options or achievement? Which is more important to you?" Freedom! The freedom to choose is always first. Everything else comes after freedom. Yes - Even death and taxes. Call me Sir if you can have coffee Wednesday morning. Cheers!
Erik Fernald September 25, 2012 at 02:44 AM
My email is eriklfernald@hotmail.com. I am in my 2nd year reading to these children and the heart of the matter is that parental concern does not appear to be present. Last week I gave each child there own book to begin to read from my son's books at home ( he is 3) they are 6-7. I expect my son to be reading by the end of this year and if he can do it, these kids can with a little encouragement and feeling of self worth. I also coach here in Smyrna and I see similar patterns from kids from different parts of town. I am for the first time taking personal responsibility for the boys and girls I interact with. Each one I see and interact with will get my undivided attention so that they move forward with their lives.
another comment September 26, 2012 at 03:04 AM
The ironic thing is that it was the white middle class smyrna/vinnings parents that advocated for and did the leg work for the Smyrna Charter school. They wanted a choice for when their kids finished up with Teasley. They were also becoming afraid of what Teasley was becoming with the section 8 vouchers from Atlanta coming up Atlanta Rd. The massive change in demographics at Teasley and then the class size increases at Teasley. So long in short it was the educated white middle to upper middle class, that mostly grew up in other states where they went to public school. Folks that believed you should be able to get a public school education that brought the Smyrna Charter in. Not the black community. Then what happens, the black community takes advantage of what the educated whites worked their butts off for. So the white middle class ended up scraping up what ever they could and sending their kids to Private schools to avoid the mess of Campbell Middle. Some of us have tried Campbell High, alot of folks have just plain moved out of an area we loved to live. The real killer is Cobb County Schools doesn't get it and keeps on putting in sub standart principals such as Denise Magee and Grant Rivera. Magee doesn't have command of the English language. She has teacher's having sex with students.
Smyrnan September 26, 2012 at 11:44 AM
http://duluth.patch.com/articles/8-myths-about-proposed-charter-amendment This is an excellent editorial on charter schools from the Duluth Patch.
L A Hays September 26, 2012 at 12:12 PM
While there's a lot of conversation here about the triumvirate at the head of our state government, the PTA, and the NAACP, I'm not seeing anything about whether our other state and local elected legislators/senators support the charter amendment. Money seems to be at the center of this discussion, and money flows in an open system that connects local dollars to those received from federal taxes and appropriations. We do elect people (effective or not) to go to Atlanta and Washington to represent us (sort of). I don't mean to distract from the discussion of giving local communities education choices, but we should know how our other elected officials would react if this amendment is approved.
Leo Smith September 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Several legislators have agreed to be present for the Smyrna Education Forum on the Charter School Amendment. This will happen Thursday Oct, 4. There is a short movie showing and information tables starting at 6. An informational presentation by an family law and education attorney will proceed at 7, followed by a legislative panel. Smyrna Market Village location TBA later today. For more information or to participate e-mail Leo Smith at education@leojsmith.com. FREE TICKETS - Also - If you'd like to join me for a PRE-RELEASE viewing of the excellent movie "Won't Back Down," at 7pm tomorrow Thursday at Lefont Sandy Springs, please e-mail education@leojsmith.com.
Leo Smith September 26, 2012 at 01:01 PM
The effort made by the Smyrna Academy of Excellence group was impressive. It is not unusual for those most marginalized from processes (whether self selected or not) to benefit from the social innovations of others. Roger Banister broke the 4 minute mile. Suddenly, something thought impossible was achieved more than 6 times in one year. I see the same irony you do. As an ex NAACP Chapter President in Virginia, I believe my executive board and local families would have embraced the opportunity to pursue creating a charter school independent of a system that has struggled to meet the needs of most black children. As much as I hate to say it, but this is not representative of the "advancement of colored people" I expect of the organization of which, conservative as I may be, I am a life member. I fear that on many issues they have been co-opted with the influence of special interest groups. Do note however, that like myself, black americans do have a wide range of socio-political viewpoints. Media just likes to highlight the "stereotypes." There are lots of pro-charter amendment blacks in Cobb. The referendum was co-sponsored by a black democrat Alisha Morgan. President Obama's children went to a Chicago independent charter school. The President's U.S, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan started some of Chicago's first charter schools before becoming Chicago's Superintendent of Schools. Interesting to ponder the ramifications of it all!
David Wilkerson September 26, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Mr. Smith you keep mentioning the President but you fail to mention that you tout yourself as a conservative Republican on your bio. We are not against charter schools nor options. Only against Deal having ultimate power over communities. I find it troublesome that people that are trying to defeat the President are now using his name to push their agenda.
Leo Smith September 26, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I am pretty sure my bio doesn't mention a party affiliation David. I can't speak for political agendas as I am not a political leader. I want to discuss the Deal issue you bring up when we get together personally. I've heard that from several politicians.
David Wilkerson September 26, 2012 at 02:05 PM
You are listed as a Republican on the patch. http://southcobb.patch.com/articles/patch-survey-of-gop-leaders-shows-widespread-opposition-to-tsplost-31443fd2
Leo Smith September 28, 2012 at 10:54 AM
The location for the Thursday October 4 Education Roundtable forum on Charter Schools mentioned in this article has been confirmed. The forum and charter presentation beginning at 7:00 p.m. will be in Smyrna City Hall's Council Chambers (King Street/Market Village). The movie "Making the Grade" will start at 6:15.
Sydney Busby September 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Hi Leo, You may have already done this, but if not, you should post the forum as an event on Smyrna-Vinings Patch. Here's the link you need http://smyrna.patch.com/events/new Thanks! Sydney
Johnny Bowe September 29, 2012 at 10:17 AM
Excellent and informative Blog Mr. Smith! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts and subsequent rebuttals.
MS September 30, 2012 at 03:43 PM
http://alecexposed.org/w/images/9/9a/2D1-Charter_Schools_Act_Exposed.pdf This the ALEC legislation that the Georgia Charter Commission law was based on. When that commission was found unconstitutional an amendment was proposed for the November ballot. Then a preamble was added to the the ballot question to confuse and mislead the Georgia voter.
Leo Smith September 30, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Thanks for the source. For most every organization, there is a counter. ALEC information can also be found at ALEC.ORG. I am familiar with a publication by ALEC titled American Legislative Exchange Council Report Card on American Education. In it, they gave Georgia a B grade on environment for educational policies that allows pursuit of a high quality education. Too complex to go into here, but I'll sure to bring a copy of the book to the Smyrna Education Roundtable event a City Hall on Thursday. Again, be sure to check out their website.
Larry King September 30, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Mr Smith Your erlier assertion pasted here (The referendum was co-sponsored by a black democrat Alisha Morgan.) may raise some questions concerning motives. It is on record that Mr Morgan has voted against charter schools that would serve students in his attendance zone while he is emloyed as a lobbyist. (paid by ???) Can you confirm that Mrs Morgan is in favor of ceding decision control to a yet un-named group of Deal appointees that will not be of benefit to Mr Morgan? One would think that Mr Morgan would be agaist the amendment as a member of our local board that would loose control if the amendment passes. Just wondering what you think.
Parent October 01, 2012 at 01:26 PM
For the last 10 years, the state has decreased the monies to the school system with austerity cuts by $5 billion dollars. And you wonder why education is doing so poorly. Instead of diverting new monies into charter schools, please channel this "new found money" back into the current public school system. I have two children in elementary and middle school. After one "wonderful" year with Principal Sandra Ervin that you mentioned above who resigned suddenly amidst of cloud of mystery and non-disclosure agreements having to be signed by teachers, I pulled out my eldest and put him in a private school which I pay for. I request that MY tax dollars that I pay for go back into the public school system and the whole education system needs to be restructured. I want to pay for one well-run system and not two bloated ones.
Smyrnan October 01, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Charter schools are a way for the Republicans and conservatives to break down public schools. The goal now of that political party is to dismantle the government program by program. Also charter schools have become a way to resegregate schools. Private (white schools) popped up all over the south in the 60s during integration. http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2012/sep/28/charter-school-debate-heats-up/
Smyrnan October 01, 2012 at 01:42 PM
http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2012/10/01/state-created-charters-sidestep-public-schools/?cxntfid=blogs_jay_bookman_blog The above article is the wrong one. This is the one I meant to post.
Leo Smith October 01, 2012 at 01:45 PM
We'll have a great forum to speak with legislators on Thursday night at Smyrna City Hall. Movie at 6:00, Presentation and Legislative Panel at 7. I'll be at both! Hope to see you there.
Leo Smith October 01, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Ok Smyrnan. Don't fall for the race baiting. International Academy of Smyrna is hardly all white. Fact is, most independent public charter schools serve more racial minorities than whites. That's not just stats or propaganda - that's fact that visible right here in your own back yard. Are you familiar with them? Ivy Prep? KIPP Atlanta? Washington D.C., Philadelphia? Looking forward to seeing you all Thursday night!
Leo Smith October 01, 2012 at 01:58 PM
How the Charter School Commission was selected will be covered at the forum on Thursday. The assertion about Representative Alisha Morgan's co-sponsorship was intended to counter posts that claim partisanship on this issue.
Smyrnan October 01, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Who wants you to vote NO on Amendment 1: State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge Georgia League of Women Voters Macon Telegraph Southern Christian Leadership Conference NAACP Atlanta City Council VoteSmart Georgia Georgia Parent-Teacher Association Georgia Association of Educators Georgia School Boards Association Georgia School Superintendents Association Professional Association of Georgia Educators Griffin-Spalding County Schools Superintendent Dr. Curtis Jones Forsyth County School Board Carroll County School Board Richmond County School Board Gwinnett County School Board Carroll County Schools Superintendent Scott Cowart Carroll City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards Atlanta School Board DeKalb County School Board Newton County School Board Glynn County School Board Towns County School Board
Smyrnan October 01, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Who wants you to vote YES on Amendment 1: Wal-Mart Multinational Conglomerate Koch Industries 10 big-dollar out-of-state donors Gov. Nathan Deal, Don Balfour, Chip Rogers
Parent October 01, 2012 at 03:42 PM
I've already had a phone call "townhall meeting" regarding school charters. I was asked to submit a question 15 seconds after a representative ended speaking but waited over an hour before "time" was up. What was so enlightening was the "questions" that did get asked. Nothing but softballs. Over the years I've dealt with many legislators and consistently have yet to hear anything that doesn't have an ulterior motive for their party or their "friends/lobbyists". Not wasting my time. Just saying NO.
Parent October 01, 2012 at 03:46 PM
But of course. Parents who are unable to provide transportation to and from school, special education students, and disadvantaged neighborhoods will not be getting any benefits from a charter school.
MA Evans January 28, 2013 at 10:56 PM
http://www.salon.com/2012/01/24/the_ugly_truth_about_school_choice/ The ugly truth about “school choice” The Koch brothers want you to think the movement's about racial justice and empowering parents. They're lying.

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