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Legislators discuss future of education in DeKalb
by Christine Fonville
March 18, 2014 08:54 AM | 1626 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a meeting last week with District 40 State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, and District 80 State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, DeKalb residents heard the future plans and goals for the DeKalb County School District.

“There are a lot of issues we face in our community, but no single issue is more important to DeKalb, regardless of if you have children in schools or not, than the accreditation of our school system,” said Jacobs.

Recently, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools took the school district off of its year-long probation, a step Jacobs said was in the right direction.

“The reality is, the status and accreditation of our schools affects the value of our high schools’ diplomas, values of property, businesses and economic development,” he said.

Jacobs said the county was then “faced with a new crisis,” from DeKalb’s delegations’ making because of a mandate and state law involving school board sizes.

“As a matter of state policy, our school board will shrink from nine members to seven members, which will be a positive for our future school board because the fewer agendas at play, the better the board will be,” he said.

The current school zone map in the county consists of seven, single-member districts and two super districts that make up about half of the county each.

“What we decided to do about the map, since the single-member districts are already compact and sensible, is to move forward with the existing seven districts and get rid of two super districts,” Jacobs said.

In a period of 17 days, the House and Senate passed and Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 979, a bipartisan bill that shrunk the school board to seven members by peeling off the two super districts because, Jacobs said, “the issue was that important.”

Both Jacobs and Millar stressed the importance of having new members of the school board elected, with Millar using the recent 5-4 opposing vote of the proposed Druid Hills school cluster as an example.

“The Druid Hills cluster is important because it means more parental involvement in schools,” he said.

The cluster would allow parents to have more governance over school policies, lesson plans and staff from the elementary level through middle and high school.

“We know we will have three votes in favor of the cluster and another gentleman from south DeKalb is also running,” said Millar, referencing the next school board election “If he wins, we’ll have a 4-3 majority, which will give a chance for the cluster to form.”

Millar said while he did not foresee “an independent school system bill being passed, school clusters would be the next best thing.”

“The Druid Hills cluster will set examples for Dunwoody, Norcross and eventually the entire county,” he said. “When we have real issues and involved parents, the school system can focus on those areas and we won’t end up with a 57 percent graduation rate in our county, so this is really big.”
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