Meeting Minutes, OCTOBER 2017

ELPC Meeting: How Title 1 and other innovative funding solutions can help your school

Oak Grove Elementary

October 24, 2017

Wendy Drew and Amity Farrar, ELPC Co-Presidents welcomed about 30 attendees and introduced the topic and panelist. Information about the organization of school and district councils was provided:

· Local School Councils are now called Principal Advisory Councils.

· The district is actively working on collaboration among councils including some cluster councils like Lakeside.

· The ELPC is all the local school councils across the Lakeside & Druid Hills feeder schools including charter schools. PCU- Parent Councils United – works across the whole district and includes local school council members.

Panel members:

· Dr. Kia Billingsley, Principal at McClendon Elementary

· Dr. Donnie Davis, Assistant Principal at Henderson Middle School

· Ken Schroeder, Druid Hills Middle School Council Chair

Introduction: There is a perspective that Title 1 is a negative thing, but it has nothing to do with school performance. It really can be great because schools receive additional funding and almost all schools are Title 1 schools now that the criteria for free and reduced school lunch has been lowered. We will talk about what types of things we can do with Title 1 funds or other sources of funding to help schools achieve their goals.

Panelist Questions:

Q- Provide an example of one of the ways your school used Title 1?

· DD: We are in our 3rd year of Title one. We focused first on equipment and supplies (Mac books, software, books, other technology, equipment and incorporated these into the curriculum.) We offer tutorial in the mornings and after school. We are now looking more at staffing such as academic coaches, ELA support, ISS instructional support specialist, and reading specialist. These individuals can work more directly with children who are struggling. We are also investing in professional development.

Q – What has been your feedback from teachers about what has been most successful?

· Dr. Davis: The technology has been great. Teachers have been very happy with that so that they can get what they need without trying to find tech. We also have received a lot of good feedback about the academic coaches. These help the teachers individually work on areas they are interested in working on. We have great feedback about our target on social studies.

Q – What kind of impact are we making with kids who aren’t reading on level? Are we making progress in the reading area?

· Dr. Davis – This is very school specific. We focused more on SS because reading wasn’t as much of an issue. Now looking at reading school wide – as well as academic language.

· Dr. Billingsley – This was a big issue for us. We didn’t have enough money to hire two reading coaches. We started with an academic coach and then started hiring

· Instructional Support Specialists. We’ve hired two. We are working hard on building effective teachers with making sure they know how to teach reading. We purchased a phonics program. Was very successful. – Saxon Phonics.

· Briar Vista Principal – We emphasize k-2 for reading. We have had significant increases using that model. We divided administrators and got an ISS that guides the new teachers. Another school uses some Title 1 money to pay for substitute teachers to give teachers some time. Down side is that you are taking teachers out of the classroom.

· Dr. Davis – We provide professional development for our teachers. – Some feedback for the district is that teachers would benefit from more time without students. Need to learn new programs, work together, be strategic about how we address time, calendar, etc. That is a big struggle for teachers.

Q – What is being done to help English as a Second Language (ESOL) kids?

· Dr. Billingsley – This comes out of a different budget. Schools determine the model best for students in their community. They do all inclusion and have three teachers to support these students. General education teachers also need to know best practices for ESOL students. Training teachers to work with those students is important.

· Mr. Schroeder – It is so important for us parents to be involved stakeholders but it is very complicated. Rely on your principal. Be a voice for our parents and students.

Q – Are you establishing relationships with our local nonprofits/churches to use the support you can find there?

· Hawthorne partners with a local church. The district also provides transportation there and parents can pick up from there. Another school is using the local civic association. New American Pathways is a support for refugee students.

· Parent Comment – some parents have complained that they couldn’t do the afterschool programs because of lack of transportation.

Q - What other things are you doing at your schools?

· Dr. Davis - STEM certification is our current goal & our foundation has supported that initiative.

· Dr. Billingsley – Our aftercare funds were used to buy Saxon Phonics, a language tutorial program. We collaborate with the Missionary Baptist Church, do a bike give away two times a year, the United Methodist Church provides snack packs for kids, Read Atlanta volunteers read to pre-k and give out free books. We also collaborate with lots of area businesses such as Lowes, who provided a STEM grant for our

outdoor classroom. Also collaborate with homeowner’s association because located in a neighborhood.

Q – How can parents support/promote programs at the schools?

· A good message is that Title 1 provides assistance for the teachers. Provide people with the facts about how Title 1 has been used and how it has helped. Title 1 supports all students after the first year, not just low-income students. The schools get a lot of input from parents and community about how people think the money would be best spent. Being knowledgeable about what is going on in the schools is the best way to know what to communicate.

· Druid Hills Middle – The positives outweigh the negatives. Only negative is the large amount of paperwork required for the school to complete. They used their money to reduce class sizes. Reduced classes from 36 to 28 kids in a class. This year they are hiring paras for science, and other areas.

· Another aspect of the message is that Title 1 has nothing to do with performance. Solely about students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

· Many people don’t know what Title 1 is. Great message would be to educate people about what Title 1 is: a federally funded program. Also, the threshold has lowered over time so becoming Title 1 doesn’t mean there has been a change to the student population. If you are in it for two years, you are grandfathered in.

· Public doesn’t understand school funding. Communication effectively to the public about how our schools are funded would be very effective.

· Senator Miller reported that there is a plan to revise the funding factor. If implemented, it will include a poverty factor. The new formula will take economic means into account. Federal funding is under 10 percent of DeKalb budget. Would like to see legislators showing up at schools unannounced because schools put on their best when they know they are on their way. Legislators mistakenly think that the school is thriving when it is struggling.

· Mr. Schroeder – Parents have no idea of how the money works for things like renovating a 50-year old library, for example. Would be helpful to know more about that so that parents can help with the process.

· Send the message through the kids. Educate the kids about school funding.

Q - Do the panelist have any closing thoughts or additional ideas for supporting the schools?

· Henderson Middle is looking to use funding to support Carnegie credits (college credits for Languages)

· Parents, come to the school and give us authentic feedback and we try to take that and use it to inform our decisions.

· Economic disadvantage makes school councils difficult at some schools.

· If you see other parents at all interested, please help get them involved – just come to the meetings even if you are not volunteering.

· Superintendent sees these councils as a very important vehicle for parent input.


Next ELPC Session – Legislative Update Friday, January 26th 9am

Curriculum: If you were not able to go to the DCSD road show meetings about the new curriculum, you can see the curriculum online and grade level curriculum guides.

Past: April 2014
State of the System Address with Superintendent Michael Thurmond
April 16, 2014
Lakeside High School

It’s only been 14 months, but Mr. Thurmond feels like he’s known us for his whole life. DCSD has made significant progress in a short time. The good news is that we are a long way from where we were when we started this journey. DCSD had a $14 million deficit in February 2013. Now we have a $10 million surplus. Fiscal Year 2015 is expected to start with a $20 million surplus. We need fiscal stability to do the job. Accreditation crisis—good news—DCSD status was elevated from accredited probation to accredited warning. He expects full accreditation by the end of the year. Being out of debt and off probation makes you average, not exceptional.
The focus now will be on academic achievement and graduation rates. Mr. Thurmond expects improvement in these areas. The problem is that adult issues used to be the focus, not the children. Tests—tests are a test of the system, not a test of children. Children are a proxy for the administration’s success. Children don’t fail; adults often fail children. Goal: continue to build foundation for the future of the district. Mr. Thurmond believes DeKalb is a natural model for urban public schools. It’s not events that matter, it’s how you interpret the events. There always will be ups and downs, it’s how you handle them that count. A major benefit of this work has been to see the interconnectedness of the people in this county.
Mr. Thurmond spent the last 30 years positioning and strategizing to get to the next election. What has changed is that now it’s about the next generation, not the next election. He thinks we’ve been too negative in the narrative about the district and children in DeKalb County. Three of the highest performing schools in the state are DeKalb schools.
Questions and Answers
Q; Flexibility system—what changes do you envision?
A: We need to better inform parents of opportunities that exist. DCSD spends $15,000 on informing parents about options out of a $2.1 billion budget. His mission is to build a community of learners.
Q: Can we include zero based budgeting in a system charter?
A: It’s possible but it will be up to whoever drafts the charter.
Q: What changes will we see with the budget surplus?
A: The surplus is not to be spent. APS is reducing its surplus to make FY15 budget. We don’t want to spend surplus unless we have a crisis. There are four remaining furlough days. Two were eliminated. The hope is to eliminate or significantly reduce furlough days.
Q: Assuming we move to a charter system, what are three ways to have autonomy at the school level?
A: The Flexibility Options Committee will monitor the writing of the charter. The charter will be written by the administration. They will decide what goes into it. Not everyone wants to be in a charter.
Q: Textbooks?
A: This year we are spending $5 million on textbooks. Last year no money was spent on books. Next year, DCSD is looking at more money in the budget for both rebinding and new books. DCSD is one of the few districts in the state that is 100% wireless.
Q: Most metro systems have budgets with raises and less furloughs. Worry about teachers leaving.
A: We want to be more certain about how this year ends before we set the budget for next year because there is little room for error. When he became superintendent, there was less than $100,000 in the savings account. Other districts draw from savings. Last year, 93% of employees returned their contracts. This year, 95% returned contacts. More people stayed this year. The narrative is different from reality.
Q: What surplus number do we need to hit?
A: Were already investing. Finance people would say we need $60 million in surplus based on a budget of $2.1 billion. He predicts three budget cycles are needed to recover without an economic downturn. $60 million is one month of expenses for DCSD. DCSD is cutting expenses. We cut $6 million on legal costs this year. When Thurmond became superintendent, we spent $10 million on legal fees in one year.
Q: Security guards at schools?
A: Responsible for protecting all kids and all schools, but that doesn’t mean every school needs a security guard. Looking at how to organize the security department.
Q: Status of redistricting?
A: No discussion at this time.
Q: Specifics to move achievement and graduation up?
A: GAM Model—Growth and Achievement Model. DCSD purchased “universal screening” before this. Couldn’t track strengths and weaknesses of individual students. This screener is revolutionary. Dr. Pringle: GAM standardizes the way we assess students. Identify gaps and strengths and grow children. Also, evaluates students by class so we can see what works. Gives feedback to parents. Assessments are not just for low achieving students. Everyone can grow. Policy being looked at for promotion for children who already have met standards.