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Letter to the Editor: Recusal, Reconsideration and Rep. Alisha Morgan's 'Lucky 13'

Interim Principal James Owmby lays out "The Case for Imagine Mableton."

Events have recently occurred that all but demand that the Cobb County administration and school board revisit the case of Imagine International Academy of Mableton, recall the vote against the school, call for recusal by one of the board members who voted against it, and schedule a reconsideration and re-vote of the entire matter. If a re-vote is not possible, a one-year extension of the school’s charter should be granted, as a fair remedy for this situation. Below are some of the reasons why.

Recently, the Marietta Daily Journal announced that State Rep. Alisha Morgan (D-Austell) was one of a “handful of organizers” hoping to open a K-12 charter school in South Cobb.

According to , Ms. Morgan said that “her group” received a $50,000 Race to the Top grant last week, which will allow them to start writing a charter to present to the Cobb Board of Education.

Ms. Morgan’s husband, David Morgan, is a member of the Cobb County Board of Education. Among other things, Mr. Morgan gets to vote on whether or not charter schools in the South Cobb area – or any other area in Cobb County, for that matter – get to exist, or stay in existence.

Logically, if not definitively, all charter schools draw students from the same field and are in competition with each other for students and by extension, for government money (state, federal, and local) to support those students. Schools based upon parent choice and satisfaction do indeed “complement” one another in their joint desire to educate children. On the other hand, because parents can freely choose one such area school or another – they also must compete with each other for such parent choice.

David Morgan is one of seven Cobb officials who get to decide who can receive students and government money at such schools of choice. We at Imagine Mableton know that, because he recently decided to vote against our school (imagine International Academy of Mableton) receiving such funds in the future. He also voted to keep our former sister school, International Academy of Smyrna, from receiving funds.

In effect, he voted to wipe our schools out of existence.

During a town hall meeting at our school, in the same cafeteria where he had pleaded for voter support from our parents during his first election campaign -- Mr. Morgan told our parents and students that not only did he intend to vote against the renewal of our charter – he intended to influence others to do the same.

Why? Because, according to Mr. Morgan, he had “done research” that “proved” that we had met such a small percentage of the goals stated in our original (2006) charter that by his estimation, we had no right to exist (more about that later).

He said that as a man who “valued his oath of office,” he felt an all-but-moral obligation to lead the way in wiping us and Smyrna Academy out of existence -- because if he did not do so, he would not be living up to that oath.

He styled himself as an educational leader who intended to dedicate himself to making sure that the “poisoned atmosphere” (his description) that existed between charter schools and the Cobb school administration was improved, and charter schools received the support that they had been previously denied by their authorizer, Cobb County Schools. Indeed, he pledged himself to vigor in that task – as soon as he finished voting to wipe us and Smyrna out.

He told our parents, students, and supporters that as soon as he helped eliminate Imagine Mableton, and (hopefully), Imagine Smyrna from the area, he’d work very hard indeed to make sure that charter schools received tons of support from Cobb.

That, of course, would logically include charter schools that potentially would start up in 2013-2014. Such as the academy that his wife’s group plans to seek Cobb government funding to start.  In the area where they will compete with International Academy of Smyrna for students and funding. And in the area where they will compete for students and funding with Imagine Mableton, if our school continues its existence.

That’s the same Imagine Mableton whose continued existence David Morgan swung a hair-thin vote against.

That denial vote against our school went 4-3, with Mr. Morgan dissenting. The vote to renew Smyrna’s charter went 6-1, in the school’s favor.

Mr. Morgan provided the swing vote against us, and the only “no” vote against Smyrna.

Mr. Morgan publicly defines himself as a man who values integrity and his oath of office above all.

That being considered, it should be he that now realizes that if his wife was an active participant in plans to start a charter school that would involve potential competition with schools whose existence he planned to vote against -- then he should have taken no part in voting for or against anything involving the fate of South Cobb area charter schools.

Maybe he did not realize that at the time of the vote. However, now that public information has brought evidence of such an involvement to light – an involvement long enough to produce completion of a federal government grant – there is no doubt that he should realize that now.

Therefore, we await with anticipation the day when David Morgan, the newly-elected vice president of the Cobb School Board, exercises reflection, a cornerstone of real integrity – and calls for the immediate reconsideration of the Imagine Mableton vote, then subsequently recuses himself from a potentially renewed debate and subsequent re-vote. An alternative to that might be the day when in the spirit of fairness, Mr. Morgan joins his colleagues on the board in voting for a one-year extension of our school’s charter, as a remedy for issues raised by the previous vote.

All that being said, let’s now consider that matter of the number 13.

 During her town hall meeting in the Mableton area on Thursday, Ms. Alisha Morgan was quoted as saying that “as a legislator [she was] very much in support of that decision to close the school [Imagine Mableton]…  I’m a strong supporter of quality charter schools, and when you meet 13 percent of the things you said you would do… that means you need to be closed.” [italics mine]

Thirteen percent. Where did our representative in the Georgia state congress get that number? From what research? From what official finding? No Cobb official has ever presented our school with such a number, or such research. Indeed, our official letter of reasons for denial from Cobb does not cite failure to achieve academic goals as the main reason for denial, and it certainly makes no mention of “13 percent.”

Thirteen percent. Did Ms. Morgan get that number from her subconscious, because she was speaking on the day before Friday the 13th? Was it caused by triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13)? Is she one of a very small percentage of the population – including NBA greats Wilt Chamberlain and Steve Nash, and NFL legend Dan Marino, wearers of  the uniform number 13 during their pro careers – who might think 13 is actually a lucky number?

No one I have consulted with seems to know where that “13 percent” grade came from.

Wait a minute. Maybe she got the number 13 from the only person who publicly claimed to have “researched” such numbers for our school – her husband, David Morgan. He claimed that he had “research” that proved we had only met seven percent of our charter’s stated goals, which were set by an inexperienced founding committee in pre-recession 2006.

Of course, seven is not the number 13. Then again, neither number appears to result from research done by an independent, unbiased researcher. If “13 percent” stems from Mr. Morgan’s research, it also doesn’t represent very reliable research (We’ve read his findings. Apparently, Mr. Morgan could not appreciate the difference between grade level percentages and percentiles, etc.).

However, in the somewhat lighthearted spirit of recognizing the “apocalyptic” year 2012, which has three Friday’s the 13th in it, which happen to be thirteen weeks apart -- I would like to offer our state representative, Ms. Morgan, 13 reasons why Imagine Mableton should be re-considered as a charter school.

 In that same “triskaidekan” spirit of “lucky 13’s,” I would like to speak for our Imagine Mableton school community in wishing her and her group the best of luck and blessings, as they begin their charter school application process.

The thirteen reasons are listed below.

  1. Imagine Mableton made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010-2011, and narrowly missed it in math during 2009-2010. The school also made AYP in 2008-2009. That’s three out of the five years of its existence – and the first year of its existence technically did not count as an AYP year.
  2. Imagine Mableton had a 97 percent pass rate on the eighth grade writing exam in 2011.
  3. In its last required report to Cobb, Imagine Mableton had 100 percent highly-qualified teacher status.
  4. Imagine Mableton has Title I status for K-8, and delivers Title I approved service for its K-8 model.
  5. Imagine Mableton has always had rather high CRCT reading scores, when compared to other schools in the area. (80-90 percent passing rates).
  6. In 2010, Imagine Mableton was granted full five-year accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), on its first application review. The review gave high recommendations to the school. During staff interviews, a SACS official described Imagine Mableton in glowing terms as the “best-kept positive educational secret” in the county.
  7. A good student environment and safety record. For instance, Imagine Mableton has had only two reports of weapons violations during the five years of our K-8 school’s existence; both were discovered and handled without further incident. Even absent of data for comparison to other area schools, the low number of such violations should speak for itself.
  8. Many of Imagine Mableton’s promoted eighth graders have done well in magnet school programs. Recently, the Diploma Programme coordinator of Cobb’s International Baccalaureate magnet called the school and asked if he could visit it, so that he could recruit more Imagine Mableton students.
  9. Imagine Mableton has a high level of parent/student loyalty and involvement, despite having had administration and governance issues.
  10. No known record exists of Imagine Mableton causing the state of Georgia or Cobb County to have to pay a bill on its behalf, or use state funds to make up any shortfall in its budget. Imagine Schools has supported the school when necessary, and subsequently forgiven Imagine Mableton for any debt that it owes to the educational management organization for such support.
  11.  Imagine Mableton made significant, provable progress (through International Baccalaureate officials) toward International Baccalaureate status, despite administrative and governance issues in its earlier years.
  12. Imagine Mableton features a well-educated, experienced staff, which includes members with educational specialist degrees, educational leadership certificates, and administrative experience. Several members of the staff have advanced degrees, and others are making progress toward masters’ degrees, doctorates, and specialist degrees. Several staff members have multiple certifications, and some are college honors graduates and members of undergraduate honor societies.
  13. Imagine Mableton has maintained a very reasonable stability of population, despite administrative and governance issues. A significant number of parents and students have remained with the school for three years or more.
P Dad January 26, 2012 at 07:05 PM
David Morgan's past history with charters... http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/board.nsf/ef7adad9495f0c4a8725731b0060d015/ddb4fed31e0637338525730c00527d31/$FILE/ATTM7BLA/Hearing%20Officer's%20Decision%20Attach.%207.2.%2007.pdf
NB November 09, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Your link no longer works but I'm very interested in seeing this document. Can you please contact me privately?

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