The episode includes academic achievements and challenges, an audiovisual depiction of the system’s charter status and testimonials from faculty members like Westlake High School literature teacher Jennifer Page and North Springs Charter High School language arts teacher Lauren Addington
Viewers of the Fulton County government television station saw an abridged version of the address as early as Dec. 4, when Avossa spoke before the county board of commissioners.
“Let me show you how we’re tracking toward one of our strategic goals. This is really exciting,” he said. “At the end of every year we look at ninth-grade completion. All of the major subgroups have increased. At the end of ninth grade, the percentage of students tracking toward graduation has moved up dramatically. We’re going to continue to push to make sure all of our children graduate.”
Avossa said listeners should take pride in the school system because it surpassed state and national averages for the SAT.
“The south learning community saw double-digit gains. Each one of the schools represented here had dramatic improvements,” he said about a slide, also visible on the school website. “If we can string together three to five years of double-digit gains, I am confident that Fulton County schools will be probably one of the only school districts in the nation that has closed gaps between children that are African-American, Latino and Caucasian.”
The system has another milestone to reach, Avossa said, in terms of the college entrance exam.
“For a couple years in a row, Fulton has the second highest SAT scores in the entire state of Georgia. There’s only one district that’s outperforming us and it looks nothing like us. It’s Cherokee County. There’s very little poverty, there’s very little English language learning, and so for us to be No. 2 in the entire state of Georgia, we ought to be really proud of that. And like I’ve told folks, next year when I come around and make my state of the schools again, I’ll be able to report that we’re the highest performing district in the state.”
Avossa also told the commissioners about recruiting exemplary teachers, including higher salaries for harder-to-fill positions, and removing underachieving teachers and principals.
Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards said before the presentation he objected to the system’s moving its central office to Sandy Springs.
“You’ve taken something that’s been with us for 50 years and you’ve taken away our ability to go to the people that’s in need of us. If you want to get a cup of cappuccino, you can still get it in south Fulton, too,” he said.
Edwards also said there is disparity between north and south county sections.
“There are two school systems. You just go ahead and acknowledge it. Give south Fulton what it deserves,” he said. “This commission has put in money through our [grants and programs] we have given you on the school board and asked you to follow through with them, and nothing has happened.”
Avossa said he recognized the discrepancy.
“There’s a long history of tension in this community that exists because of the geographic location,” he said.
County Chairman John Eaves said he hoped to get more data on comparisons between north and south dropout rates, grade point averages and college admissions.
“I commend you for at least acknowledging the racial disparities in the school district,” he said, referring to south Fulton’s predominantly black population. “The best thing is to be honest about it. I see some great things in terms of the movement but let’s drill down on the data. If you know there are disparities, a case can be made that some additional resources should be put in these underperforming areas to get them up to a certain level.”
Vice Chair Emma Darnell agreed.
When I look at this report I see two systems, separate and unequal. Unequal based on race. That’s unacceptable,” she said. “Every time race is a major factor, hindering us from achieving the goals which all people of Fulton County have said they want us to achieve, I’m going to call it that way. I will not accept a separate and unequal system for the schools in Fulton County because everybody pays. As long as everybody pays, everybody must benefit equally.”
On the web: http://bit.ly/1isLGbL