Meeting Minutes, February 15, 2012

Emory LaVista Parent Council Meeting February 15, 2012
Welcome from Marshall Orson, co-president of Emory LaVista Parent Council. The topic of the meeting was Legislative Update. Speakers included Georgia Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of the 83rd District and Georgia Sen. Fran Millar of the 40th District.
Rep. Oliver reviewed several laws governing redrawing of districts. She noted that a map redrawing current DeKalb school board districts has not been approved. In 2011 she noted that Legislature passed SB 79 which reduced from nine to seven the DeKalb County School Board. She said at the time legislators felt as if the school board needed a “shakeup.” While school board members who were elected in 2008 will have their terms expire in 2012, school board members who were elected in 2010 cannot have their terms shortened without a referendum. Rep. Oliver said a referendum could be held in July 2012 or the reduction in board size could be delayed until 2014. If the referendum passed, all school board members would stand for election in 2012.
Sen. Fran Millar suggested keeping the current board for two years during which time a new school board district map will be drawn. He noted that the Gwinnett County School Board consists of five members. He said a five-member map for DeKalb County did not make it out of a subcommittee.
Rep. Oliver said she would consider a delay in reducing the size of the school board as long as the map honors school district feeder lines.
Q: Is a five-member map being considered?
A: (Rep. Oliver) Any map can be brought forward. She called it a “political process.”
Q: How many maps are being considered or submitted?
A: (Rep. Oliver) She said map submissions are welcome. Neither the board nor county has voted on a preferred map.
Q: What maps are there?
A: (Rep. Oliver) There has to be agreement between the Legislative delegations about the maps. There has been no consensus.
Q: If referendum is delayed two years, would outcome be different?
A: (Rep. Oliver) Explained that she hears from many constituents about concerns about the DeKalb School Board. However the Legislature can influence the board only to a small degree. Sen. Millar agreed with Rep. Oliver’s statement and there are not enough votes from the DeKalb delegation on any one map.
Q: Concern was expressed that the map approval process is not transparent.
A: Sen. Millar noted there are not enough votes in the DeKalb delegation to approve the map and termed the situation “impasse.”
Q: Endorsed idea of better school across all districts.
A: Sen. Millar said the issue will play out and that he is optimistic a map will be selected.
Rep. Oliver left the meeting in order to attend a Legislative meeting.
Q: Can there be a five-member map? Doesn’t the bill say the DeKalb board can have “no more than seven” members?
Sen. Millar noted the Legislature should have resolved this issue.
Sen. Millar also discussed other issues facing the Legislature regarding education including the proposed constitutional amendment regarding charter schools. He said the QBE funding had not been updated in some time and the funding formula is outdated. Sen. Millar expressed his support for the idea of charter schools and that good leaders and good parents make good schools. He noted that local boards have to give up some power and authority with charter schools. He also said the Legislature needs to deal with the HOPE scholarship program. He advocated adding a SAT/ACT component to eligibility criteria. He said 40 percent of students lose the scholarship after one year.
Q: What are class sizes in charter schools?
A: Sen. Millar said policies are based on outcomes. There can be flexibility for charter schools in return for results.
The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held March 21, 2012, at Druid Hills Middle School and will involve introduction of new DeKalb County School System senior staff members.
Respectfully submitted,
Patricia O’Connell