Articles tagged with Georgia

States faced with ‘interesting times’

Listening to five state association leaders talk Sunday about the challenges they face might have reminded you of that purported Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Because public schools in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Georgia are all living through “interesting” times. Not particularly fun times, to be sure, but definitely interesting.

Two common threads (or is that threats?) marked their presentations for the Third General Session of National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Federal Relations Network Conference: The difficulties posed by a severe lack of money, and the challenge coming from various — and often united and well-funded — proponents of vouchers, charter schools, and privatization.

“Even if they feel they can’t get their legislation through, it still gives them a platform to attack public education and school board governance,” said Angela Palm, director of policy and legislative services for the Georgia School Boards Association.

The good news, several of the state executives said, is that the state associations and NSBA are not waiting for their opponents to define public education but are actively telling their own stories – to their constitutions, to parents, to legislators – highlighting successes, and setting the record straight.

Studies show that most citizens give their local public school “As” or “Bs” for quality.

“Then why are we having this discussion” about alternatives to public schools? asked Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

The reason, as Koocher and others explained, is the power and money behind public school critics. In Pennsylvania, for example, three different groups have come together to argue for more school choice: those who sincerely believe charters and other choice options will improve schools: those who are invested in attacking public education; and businesses that see public education as “a cash cow” said Thomas Gentzel, that state’s executive director. He said that, in forming your strategies and talking points, it helps to know which group you’re addressing.

One of the more convoluted – and long running – budget crises is occurring in California, leading Vernon Billy, executive director of the California School Boards Avocation, to close his presentation with this tongue-in-cheek advice: If someone starts a conversation with “’Well, you know, in California’….run.”

Currently, the state is planning to cut the education budget, but it is still asking districts to fund programs as if they had as much money as last fiscal year, Billy said. This has been convenient for the state and unions and other interest groups with which it has been negotiating, but it places all the fiscal responsibility on districts, which must either plow into their reserve funds or borrow money to stay afloat.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a state referendum on increasing taxes, but if it does not pass, Billy said, the state is looking at more cuts of as much as $5 billion. Still, school districts are being told to spend as if they had as much money as last year; and, meanwhile, in an effort to preserve state funds, the state is deferring scheduled payments to schools.
“We still have our electric lights to pay for. We still have our employees to pay,” Billy said. “We still have our health and welfare costs rising. Those things are not changing.”

Ken DeLay, executive director of the Colorado School Boards Association, gave a more positive report on developments in his state. As a result of hard work and continued dialogue, the legislature was able to pass new teacher evaluation rules that for the first time would provide a mechanism for districts to fire low-performing but tenured teaches without having to spend thousands of dollars in litigation costs.

Lawrence Hardy|February 5th, 2012|Categories: Teachers, Educational Finance, FRN Conference 2012|Tags: , , , , , |

The week in blogs: A school board member’s ‘unabashed reasonableness’

Amid the clamor for an educational “silver bullet “ — be it charter schools, or vouchers, or more hoops for teachers to jump through, or more mandates from Washington — a guest columnist for Valerie Strauss’s Answer Sheet blog talked this week about creating “a vision that looks at the entire system of public education” in the author’s home state and “how to move it forward.”

Who writes with such unabashed reasonableness in this age of partisan stridency and politically loaded speech? A school board member, of course. Namely, David Johnson, president of the Georgia School Boards Association and vice chair of the Floyd County Schools in Rome, Ga.

The system Johnson is referring to is the GSBA project: A Vision for Public Education: Equity and Excellence.

“Instead of picking apart the system and deciding on where or on whom to lay blame, we now have a vision that looks at the entire system of public education in our state and how to move it forward,” Johnson writes. “It’s proactive, productive and positive.”

And well worth a careful look – no matter what state you live in.

The plan specifies immediate actions and long-range steps to address issues such as early learning; governance, leadership, and accountability, and culture, climate, and organizational efficiency.

Other good blogs this week include Joanne Jacobs’ look at the other side of South Korea’s phenomenal test scores, or, as she puts it, South Korea: Kids Stop Studying So Hard!

“You Americans see a bright side of the Korean system,” Education Minister Lee Ju-ho told Time magazine, “but Koreans are not happy with it.”

In other news, Eduwonk calls “sobering” new data on poverty in Hispanic households and the latest statistics on college completion.

Lawrence Hardy|September 30th, 2011|Categories: Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA announces 2010-11 Recognition Program honorees

NSBA recently announced the recipients of the 2010-11 School Board Member Recognition Program, which allows state school boards associations to recognize exemplary school board members from their states on a national level. The nominees chosen must meet criteria that include having made a significant contribution to the advancement of education as evidenced by leadership at or beyond the local level. Nominees also must have regularly attended regional, state, and national conferences for four consecutive years.

Following is a list of the 2010-11 recipients:


Florence Bellamy, Phenix City Board of Education

Steven Foster, Lowndes County School District

Suzanne Helms, Madison City Schools

Katy Smith-Campbell, Macon County Board of Education


Melissa Borton, Kodiak Island Borough School District

Jolene Edenshaw, Hydaburg City School District

Willard Hand, Copper River School Distrct

Pete Hoepfner, Cordova City School District

Tiffany Jackson, Aleutians East Borough School District

Carol Kelly, Haines Borough School District

Sherry Lestenkof, Pribilof School District

Mike Swain, Jr., Bristol Bay Borough School District

Colleen Vague, Matanuska-Suitna Borough Schools

Charles W. Wilson, Annette Islands School District


David Johnson, Floyd County School District

Vernon Payne, Clarke County School District

Joseph White, Mitchell County School District


Donald Clayberg, Sycamore Community Unit School District #247

Juanita R. Jordan, Prairie-Hills Elementary School District #144

Theresa L. Kelly, Proviso Township High School

Anna Klimkowicz, Township High School District #211

Alva J. Kreutzer, Township High School District #214

Dr. Maria P. Smith, Ridgewood Community High School District 234


Ellis A. Alexander, Saint Charles Parish Public Schools

Joel J. Dugas, Iberia Parish School Board

Victoria Krutzer, Monroe City School System

Yolanda Laws, Iberville Parish School District

Melvin Lodge, Iberville Parish School District

A. J. Nickens, Ascension Parish School Board


Ronald Gnatkowski, Saginaw Intermediate School District

Thomas Owczarek, Fitzgerald Public Schools


JoAnn W. Feltner, Franklin City School District

Tawana Lynn Keels, Princeton City School District

Susan Lawson, Tri-County Educational Service Center

Donna J. Myers, Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center

Warren S. Stevens, Urbana City School District

David H. White, Fort Frye Local School District

Charlie Wilson, Worthington School District



Beth Gerot, Eugene School District 4J

Kris Howatt, Gresham-Barlow School District 10

Annette Mattson, David Douglas School District #4


Robert Bold, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute

Frederick Botterbusch, II, Dallastown Area School District

Karen Brennan, Athens Area School District

Shauna D’Allesandro, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Idette Groff, Conestoga Valley School District

Robert Lumley-Sapanski, Bellefonte Area School District

Roberta Marcus, Parkland School District

Marianne Neel, West Jefferson Hills School District

Michael Paston, Upper Dublin School District

Donald Raifsnider, Muhlenberg School District

Jody Sperry, Conneaut School District

Eric Wolfgang, Central York School District

Donald Yoder, Jr., Dallastown Area School District


Robert Alvey, Jr., Jackson-Madison County Board of Education

Roger Greene, Sr., Hamblen County Department of Education

Janice Haun, Hamblen County Department of Education

Carolyn Holt, Hamblen County Department of Education

Clyde Kinder, Hamblen County Department of Education

Susan Lodal, Kingsport City School System

Amy Martin, Bedford County School District

Kent McNish, Franklin Special School District

Horace Murphy, Jr., Clarksville-Montgomery County School District

Patrice Robinson, Memphis City Schools

State associations are allowed to nominate up to 1 percent of the members of their membership. If you would like to submit nominations, please contact Valarie Carty at (703) 838-6168 or via e-mail at


Joetta Sack-Min|July 13th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Announcements, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Board News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Community engagement, great in theory but hard in practice

0110CoverASBJI’d like to tell you that every feature I write elicits tons of discussion and mail, but the truth of the matter is I’d be lucky if I get a handful of responses from my articles each year.

So I’ve been surprised that my cover story for the January edition of ASBJ has already generated  some feedback and requests for more information. It’s clear, educators understand that engaging the community is a critical part of their success.

But it’s also clear not everyone knows how to do it in an impactful way, especially with the few resources they have. It’s tough, no doubt about it, and if you read my story you’ll see a variety of innovative approaches because there is no one right way.

I think Clarke County Schools in Georgia, which I include in my story, deserves some special recognition for the comprehensive but strategic manner in which they’ve gone about building these relationships with families and the community. 

Naomi Dillon|January 6th, 2011|Categories: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

New year, new board, new attitude for Clayton County officials

As we move into 2009, it’s time to rehabilitate the reputation of the Clayton County Public Schools and its school board.

For most of last year, Clayton County was the nation’s poster child of a school board “gone bad.” Some board members interfered in administrative matters. They bickered at board meetings. They accused one another of wrongdoing and asked state officials to conduct investigations of their colleagues.

It was as dysfunctional a school board as existed. And ultimately, it paid the price. An outraged public demanded that board members resign. Those that resisted were removed from office by the governor. And the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools stripped the school system of its accreditation.

But that’s the past. And it’s important to make that clear. The old board is gone-all nine members swept from office-and a new board is attempting to pick up the pieces and rebuild public confidence in the school board and the school system.

They’re making progress. Very conscious of the need to break away from the past, the new board at its December meeting stuck strictly to its agenda, limited board member remarks, and followed parliamentary procedures to a degree I’ve seldom seen.

It was as dull a board meeting as I’ve intended in 30 years. And, given the sad drama of past meetings, that’s a compliment.

Why was I at the meeting? I visited Clayton County as part of my research into a “case study” of the old board and what went wrong it. The article will appear in the March ASBJ.

It’s not a pretty story. The old board talked a lot about the “needs of the children,” but when push came to shove, board members often succumbed to the personal animosity and suspicions that had grown between them. In the end, they could not simply shut up and get on with the business at hand.

(In my magazine article, I believe I chose more diplomatic language to make that point.)

Naomi Dillon|January 15th, 2009|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

Poster child of board dysfunction works to change image, status

The new school board in Clayton County, Ga., has quite a challenge facing it.

In January, the last of the newly elected board members will take their oaths of office-and the nine-member school board will be back at full strength after months of controversy and turmoil that saw the resignation or forced removal of every member of the previous board.

Any school board is going to have a tough time when its members are new and inexperienced-and there are no “old hands” to provide some institutional memory.

But those times are tougher when a school board must operate in the shadow of its predecessor, which lost the public’s confidence after public bickering, allegations of micromanagement and interfering in personnel decisions, and violations of the state ethics and open meetings laws.

In the end, several board members resigned, one was removed from office for living outside his district, and the rest were kicked out of office by the governor-all before the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) delivered the coup de grace by stripping the school system of its accreditation.

Today, the Clayton County school board is very conscious of the need to do its job well in the coming months-and of the hard work facing it. This board of novices must, in just the next few months, decide on a possible superintendent’s search, develop a strategic plan for the school system, write a new budget in the midst of tough economic times, and deal with the politically sensitive issue of redrawing school boundary lines.

Oh, and of course, it must convince SACS to restore the school system’s accreditation.


Naomi Dillon|December 18th, 2008|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |
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