Atlanta, GA, August 14, 2013 – The overwhelming passage of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster by the Druid Hills community is a first step in establishing Georgia’s first autonomously governed public school cluster. It is also a strong statement by DeKalb parents and educators that they want more control over their local public schools.
The proposal would convert six DeKalb County public schools that all feed into Druid Hills High School, into public charter school “cluster” with the power to decide on matters of instruction, school staffing, operations and teacher salaries.
The cluster empowers Principals, at the building level, with greater flexibility and provides new instructional pathways in the feeder schools — Druid Hills Middle, Avondale Middle, Briar Vista, Fernbank, Laurel Ridge and McLendon elementary schools.
For many months leading up to the vote, the Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) worked closely with parents, teachers and other DeKalb community leaders to help shape the charter cluster petition.
Kelly Cadman, GCSA’s Vice President for School Services, headed the team that worked on the proposal. “It has been a privilege to be part of the first charter cluster initiative in the state. We have been impressed by the level of support among parents, teachers and community members to engage in the planning and research required to develop a high quality charter plan. This is a replicable an innovation that will help parents and teachers meet their students’ needs,” Cadman said.
The charter cluster model has been applied in Florida, but so far Georgia is the only other state to replicate it. More than 5,000 students will be enrolled in the cluster, which still requires DeKalb County school board and State DOE approval. The seven schools cut across all racial and economic lines, and five of the seven schools are Title One schools where a majority of children are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
GCSA’s Executive Vice President, Andrew Lewis, felt the vote expressed the community’s desire for a bigger say in how their children learn and how their schools are run. “The diverse community represented by the Druid Hills High School Cluster is attempting to move from a management and control governance model by the local board of education, to an oversight governance model by the local board. This will empower the community through self-governance, allow DeKalb County Schools to focus more attention where needed, and hold this cluster of seven schools accountable for results,” Lewis said.
The cluster proposal goes before the DeKalb school board later this week.