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Decatur schools earn renewed charter status
by Noreen Cochran
April 03, 2013 09:39 AM | 1171 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With its charter renewed Feb. 20 by the Georgia Department of Education for 10 years, the City Schools of Decatur system is ready to customize more ways to help its 3,542 students learn.

Superintendent Phyllis Edwards, Ed.D., said the state board not only renewed their 2008 waiver from mandated requirements but praised its results.

“Some of the language used was, ‘You’re doing all the right things. Keep up the good work,’” she said.

Glenwood Elementary School Principal Dianna Watson said their document was considered the example other systems should follow.

“They gave our petition rave reviews,” she said. “They were complimentary of the rewritten and revised charter. It’s a good, solid plan that is focused on district goals and gives each school the opportunity for flexibility.”

The state judged the renewal by the system’s academic achievements under the first, five-year charter.

Success stories like Glenwood’s use of non-traditional platforms like motor skills enhancer NeuroNet and phonics program Fundations helped advance their case.

“It was a hard sell with teachers. Our teachers would now not give it up,” Watson said. “They have seen the significant growth in both areas using those two different products and instructional strategies.”

Clairemont Elementary School, where Watson taught, benefited from charter status.

“We started math tutoring and a Saturday math program spearheaded by parents,” she said. “It continues to this day.”

Parent involvement is a hallmark of the charter system, Watson said.

“We provide a lot of opportunities to hit a wide variety of times so that parents can participate,” she said.

School leadership teams, comprised of parents and community members, may benefit from some charter revisions.

“We looked at their monthly meetings,” Edwards said. “We want to see if they prefer quarterly meetings with opportunities to cover more issues and study them longer.”

Edwards said the most recent pre-renewal public meeting attracted only 15 parents.

“There was a lot of misunderstanding the first year,” she said about the 2007 and 2008 process. “This time our parents are pretty comfortable with it.”

The system’s stated goal is to be “one of the top 10 community school districts in the nation,” but without third-party validation, Edwards said there are other ways to tell.

“We have benchmarks in our strategic plan. We’ve gotten accolades. President Obama visited us,” she said about his Feb. 14 appearance at the College Heights pre-K. “Those are the kind of markers we’re looking for.”

What's next?
The City Schools of Decatur school board will meet May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at 758 Scott Blvd., Decatur.
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