Meeting Minutes, October 14, 2014

Emory LaVista Parent Council
October 14, 2014
Fernbank Elementary School
Superintendent Selection

Elected officials:

Senator Fran Millar, Representative Scott Holcomb, School Board Member Marshall Orson

Druid Hills Charter Cluster withdrew its petition for charter cluster status.
DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is discussing applying to become a charter system. A draft of the petition to become a charter system was made public last week. The Board did not vote to approve the draft with the intention of seeing more public feedback. Eleven out of 11 speakers at the school board meeting were against the charter system petition.

The November 1 deadline for filing the charter petition is not accurate. Marshall advised that we need to make sure the School Board does not push the petition through in a rushed manner. We need to engage the public at town hall meetings. School Calendar Survey—closes Monday October 20. One option includes start date of August 3rd, which has teachers reporting (and registration taking place) in July. Nationally, there is a movement toward flipping middle and high school start times. Contact the School Board if this is of interest to you.

Discussion with Marshall Orson:

Parents want to know what IE Squared and other Charter System options would look like for DeKalb. The Board would also like to see this. Question of why only three of the five possible structural options were considered by DCSD and the Flexibility Advisory Committee. Issues of distrust of the administration. Suggestion that Board members host a town hall meeting through ELPC. Other Parent Councils could do this as well.

Superintendent Search:
The results of an RFQ for a Search Firm were presented to the Board at the October meeting. Only 4 firms responded, and the Board was not satisfied with any of them. The Board directed DCSD to do a second RFQ. The Board expects to select a search firm in November. The Board has not decided how to conduct the search. Marshall Orson would like a committee of “elders” who people trust who are outside DCSD to make the selection.

DCSD is behind in the search process timeline. Mr. Thurmond’s contract expires June 30, 2015. Atlanta Public Schools began their superintendent search in April for a position to begin 15 months later. The Board created an ad hoc search committee five months ago, but the committee has made little progress.

Q: Does this increase the risk of an internal candidate?
A: We have a window of opportunity for an outside candidate now.
The slow pace is not because the Board wasn’t aware of the necessary timeline. Parent Councils United met with the head of the APS search committee and shared the information learned with the Board last June.

What qualities do we want in a superintendent?

  • Self Reflective
  • Think about what are strength and weaknesses in DCSD administration are now and how we can balance them with a new super?
  • Courageous in looking and administration and eliminating people who aren’t doing a good job or who are friends and family
  • Clean house
  • Best practices in communication with various stakeholder groups and staff
  • Strong in curriculum
  • Willing to delegate; ego and power is problem; need someone to put the district first
  • Educational background
  • Business background
  • Change agent
  • Culture needs to be in place where it is OK to disagree with the Superintendent
  • Recruit experts and allow them to do their jobs
  • Proven track record of culture of accountability and transparency
  • Willing to stay long enough to create culture change
  • Experience leading significant downsizing
  • Someone who sees through false or misleading statements
  • Savvy enough to deal with political and racial issues (acknowledge the issues, move past them and not manipulate race and politics for their own purposes)
  • Focus teacher retention: recruit, retain, pay, retirement

The Superintendent is for a moment in time. Mr. Thurmond was good for his moment in time. Now it is a new moment in time. We need a sustainable culture of forward progress. District wide we need a culture of openness, respect and true collaboration with parents. In the past, there has been lip service for parental involvement, but the only parental involvement that was truly welcomed was to do homework with children. School house staff also needs to be heard by the administration.