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Charter School System???

Open Letter to State School Superintendent and State School Board Members,

Any casual observer of performance in Fulton County Schools should be aware of the substantial achievement gap between north and south Fulton County students. The inequity is so profound that Kennesaw State University has a course entitled Inequities in Education: The Case of Fulton County School District. It is troubling but not surprising that just a few short years after Fulton achieved "Unitary Status" from court ordered desegregation, that the majority north Fulton School Board now is rushing Fulton Schools into becoming a Charter School System. This despite a code of ethics that says a board member’s "foremost concern is for the educational welfare of children attending schools within the school system."
Charter schools are given flexibility to try new and innovative approaches to learning and those that fail are closed. Creating a Charter System in Fulton would be like turning the rudder on a massive cruise ship - slow to initiate and far more difficult to turn around. Sadly Fulton County Schools - one of the largest systems in Georgia wants to experiment with the future of over 90,000 children and many are ready to sanction it. While some of these new approaches may work, others may not thus reaping untold educational devastation for our most precious gifts for our future - our children.
The prospect for students in affluent North Fulton - more likely to have both parents, with vibrant and effectively funded PTAs, households where both parents likely need not work - hence a greater opportunity for parental participation and support is great. Successful charter models require a high degree of parental participation, governance and time to be successful. While that might bode well for the successful north Fulton sector is not in the best interest of all Fulton Students.
Furthermore north Fulton parents are also more likely to be able to opt out, should the Fulton experiment fail them and send their children to private school. SAT, CRCT, ACT, AYP and other achievement measures shows the disparity like a tale of two cities or in reality two school systems. The sheer number of south Fulton parents that make the sacrifice to put their children on northbound buses 2-3 hours a day in search of a better education demonstrates the well-known achievement gap.
The burden of proof in the application/approval process should be to demonstrate that this massive change will not exacerbate a tragic failing for a huge segment of Fulton students. Many pundits believe that this is a "done deal" and I have no doubt that in north Fulton straw organizational charts and pending charter leadership names are already being "penciled in". I hope that you will continue to demonstrate your concern for ALL of the students of Fulton and not "rubber stamp" a move that will undoubtedly be challenged in the courts and with SACS over Fulton’s accreditation.
Harvey Davis



Home Security Tactics - Home Security Tactics Pamphlet

The first step to home burglary is to find an easy target.  If your house appears to be hard to break into, then the burglar will select another house.

Most crime in communities are home burglaries and they happen during the day and are done by simply kicking-in the door.  By preventing, the kick-in, a robber is going to go on to someone else's house.

If you see suspicious activity, phone the police via 911.  Say, “This is a non-emergency.” And then, describe the activity.  The police often need a phone call for justification to interview someone.  You can also anonymously phone the Fulton County Police Tip Line at 404-730-6529  OR Atlanta Police TIPS hotline, (404) 577-TIPS.

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Watch how your SPLOST Tax Dollars are being spent

Taxpayer and Parental Education Alert

As the SPLOST III Tax Revenue diminishes, where do you think the school construction cuts are?  South Fulton!

South Fulton Construction Delays While North Fulton Projects Move Forward

A Retrospective from 2004 How things were and haven't changed very much

New school construction boom continues as do plans to split off to Milton County

see links to "Viability Study of a New Milton County"

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School Equity and Fairness                                                

The concerns of South County residents calling for equity and fairness in the Fulton County educational system is about more than a numbers game involving spending.  The central point of the community's argument is to correct the injustices of the past.  Ignorance and insensitivity exist in modern day Fulton County and play a major role in the North-south debate.  Most people are unfamiliar with segregation and the vestiges of the practice.

 Some South County students have and will continue to achieve in spite of obstacles, inadequacies or the lack of system support.  The vast majority, for a variety of reasons, continue to struggle with academic achievement.  When you compare all aspects of the system between North and South, overall there are clearly disparities and inequities.  The School Board publicizes facts (based on projections) and figures to contend and validate that progress is being made to close the achievement gap.

As a South County resident, my concerns are based on other facts (information substantiated by an actual occurrence).  In 2004, 48 students were recognized as National Merit scholar winners.  Only 2 or 4.1% were from South County High Schools. All four High Schools in South County are below the state average SAT scores, in a state that ranks 49 out of 50.  Of the 10 schools in 2004, that did not make AYP, six were from South County, with four being middle schools.

In South County, equity is about improvement in the above indicators and many others that confirm equal opportunity for all children.  Since 1954, we have waited for the achievement gap to close.  It seems that if we focus on the differences in spending, we somehow validate progress.  And if I was the school board, I might be tempted to toot my horn on those notes.

But integrity, honesty, fairness and a commitment to equality for all will not allow me to heart their melody.  And I am compelled to appeal to Fulton County residents to listen to a more melodious tune and sound of harmony; one that embraces diversity, inclusiveness and strives to achieve progress on a higher ground.  When you elevate the achievement of those performing at the bottom, the county overall improves and that is what this school board is missing.

John A. Davis

Are We Educated Homeowners?                                               back to top

            The purchase of a home is one of the biggest investments we make in our lifetime. Homeownership absorbs much of our time, money and preoccupation.  While most of us tend to focus on maintenance, upkeep and the building of wealth, how much of our time is spent on creating value?  Do we understand the outside threats to our homes; are we familiar with the causes of overdevelopment, pollution and negative influences on our quality of life; do we know the political leaders who effectively advocate on our behalf and are not selling us down the river; ARE WE EDUCATED HOMEOWNERS?

            To be an educated homeowner, requires involvement, familiarity with the community issues and a sense of who are our allies and enemies.  With education and understanding comes responsibility.  We become responsible for more than our homes.  We become responsible for our neighbors, and look out for all children.  Does this sound familiar like it was something in our past, “It takes a village to raise a child” or “the community looked out for all the children on the block”.

            Let me share some examples to illustrate the point and make it real.  Did you know that as a result of the No Child Left Behind federal legislation, approved by Congress a few years ago, that the new Sandtown Middle School will open this fall, with well over 1,000 students (350 beyond what was planned).  Any child in South Fulton is welcome to attend Sandtown Middle School and we want to assure them the opportunity to succeed.  Will our new middle school be equipped with all of the resources to insure that for the first year, we meet the requirements for student progress under the new federal law?

            Another example presents further self-analysis.   Did the Sandtown Village really fail before the Board of Commissioners because of our leaders or was the project defeated by some of us who fell for a promise of “forty acres and a mule”.  Promises were made for other commercial development in two other parts of Sandtown and two years later, we are still looking at an ugly intersection and traveling to a Wal-Mart that now wants to lure us into accepting a closer location on Cascade Road.

            Did you know that the proposed detention expansion near Stonewall Tell Road was signed off by some of our leaders who now want to recant their decisions and prevent us from realizing the truth.

            An EDUCATED HOMEOWNER would be familiar with the school board’s proposed plan to outsource the Capital Programs department.  This decision is coming at a time when new schools are needed in South Fulton and fiscal responsibility and thriftiness are now the new standards going forward.  Quality and equity no longer seem to be factors now that 17 new schools have been built in North Fulton.

            There is a stark contrast between today’s idea of community responsibility and our ancestors’ understandings during slavery and the civil rights movement.  W.E. B. Dubois known for his Talented Tenth theory, believed that those who have succeeded in education and economics, would return to their community to pull up those still trapped in poverty and locked out of opportunity.

             Changes were made to improve our living conditions by individuals with less than what many of us enjoy today and with half the education.  Are we so self-absorbed and so unaligned with sharing our blessings or are we EDUCATED HOMEOWNERS?

If Not Us, then Who? by John Davis                                          back to top

  March 11, 2004 was a special day for Sandtown.  On this day, about 200 parents of Sandtown and throughout Southwest Fulton County went down to the Fulton County School Board meeting to express their support for a new school.  Sandtown has been trying to convince the school board for more than 4 years to rebuild the school.  Prior to the issue of Westlake coming before the board, two speakers from North Fulton County requested that the same board retract a redistricting decision that was based on information that was a misrepresentation; and resulted in exclusion of certain groups and insulated others from what was classified as “undesirables”.  After the two speakers, I sent a note to the woman from North Fulton and thanked her for her comments.  I appreciated the fact that I found someone who lives in North Fulton County, who embraces inclusion and is working to promote a more diverse community.  What hit me is that we should all be fighting for ONE FULTON COUNTY and if not us, then who.

            The issue of insufficient school facilities is not one that Sandtown faces alone.  As many of you know, East Point, Union City, Fairburn and other parts of South Fulton County face the same issue.  As the land disturbance, permits and new subdivisions crop up, future generations of South Fulton children will be educated in overcrowded classrooms, trailers and in inadequate science labs.  If we do not start banding together with other communities who have similar problems, we will continue to suffer and see the beautiful homes and neighborhoods diminish in value.

            South Fulton residents pay taxes like every other part of Fulton County.  Frederick Douglas once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and never will”.  If South Fulton County wants respect, it is time for us to demand it.  If the forefathers of the African-American community can walk, march and protest for respect, certainly, those of us with BA, MA, BS, JD, and PHD can too!

People of Purpose and Vision by John Davis                         back to top

            My first question is where are the people of purpose and vision in Sandtown?  Most of us rely on our state representatives and county elected officials to make things better for us, to champion our causes and to “make a difference.”  Residents are of purpose and vision when it comes to paying their bills, i.e.. the mortgage or car note.  But is being entirely focused on this type of purpose work to enhance your quality of life, does it nurture your children with a sense of pride or hope or encourage the belief for a better tomorrow?  People of purpose and vision look beyond themselves to significantly add to the development of their surroundings and they dedicate their time to causes that improve their communities.

Health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes confront many residents in Sandtown.  How many of us realize that accessible sidewalks, walking/bike trails and parks can reduce the toll these diseases have as well as bring value to our community.  Are we victims of political decisions that serve interest outside of Sandtown or the interests of a few people living in certain subdivisions?  How many are willing to understand the issues, work for positive and meaningful solutions and if necessary challenge those who represent us to make decisions that benefit more of us as opposed  to a few.

            Education is one major area that needs attention in Sandtown to perfect our community’s  purpose and vision. When I speak of purpose and vision, I wonder about Westlake High School.  This high school is in serious need of repair, updated classrooms, state-of-the-art equipment and a new look for our community.  I would think Sandtown residents would be up in arms over the conditions of this educational facility in which we expect our children to grow and learn.  Let’s face it, how will children in Sandtown compete against the emerging global talent given their oftentimes inadequate preparation due to our failure to ensure that they are provided the best opportunity to be all they can be.  Vision is equally important when it comes to Westlake High because the new middle school, opening in August, 2004, will serve as the feeder school for Westlake High.  What sense does it make to send a child from a state-of-the-art middle school to a high school that is sub par at best when compared to other high schools in North Fulton County.

Thanks to the vigilance of a few people of purpose on the Sandtown Education Committee, who have worked tirelessly over the pass two years to get Sandtown a new and improved Westlake we have hope.  This small group attend school board meetings every month, they are there at every turn, even when outspoken and influential members representing North Fulton present excuses, make empty promises and present obstacles.  By the way, the building of the new middle school came in under budget by $15 million.  That money has already gone to two high schools in North Fulton County. It is expected that the school board will not have the funds to fulfill any plans already approved, which leaves Westlake currently out in the cold.  Another significant fact is that for the last several years, of 19 schools that have been built in Fulton County -- 17 were in North Fulton and 2 in South Fulton.  It does not take a rocket scientist to see that there is a glaring disparity in the distribution of educational resources in Fulton County.

            Maya Angelou says, “Hope does not take away your problems, it can lift you above them.”  I challenge Sandtown residents to have more hope.  Get involved.  Come to understand the impact of the decisions being made by our political representatives.  Let us begin to walk with a sense of purpose and vision. Think back on some of those American heroes like Harriet Tubman, John F. Kennedy, Martin L. King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Hillary Clinton who come to stand up for something as opposed to falling for anything.

Community Apathy by John Davis                                            back to top

Many of us are just too busy. We have demanding jobs, families that need care and support, liabilities that can outweigh our assets and not much time to focus on what is important. Our homes and the surrounding land are self- imposed boundaries that we look at and give most of our attention. One of the major side effects is something we all may not realize. Its potential is great and can destroy all that we value. That effect is apathy. In a broader sense, community apathy.

Apathy manifests itself in several ways; a school parent/ teacher association with a few active parents, the personal  decision of not wanting to be a part of your local homeowners association or work with your neighbors on a common cause, or even being lax in exercising your constitutional right to vote. The bottom line with all of these types of assessments is that in a community where homeownership is paramount and equity is king, apathy is the one thing that can erode at the foundation of keeping families together, building functional communities and maintaining the unique quality of life many of us enjoy in Sandtown.  

We have all worked hard to attain what we define as "success." The irony is that we can buy a home for 200K+ and not even recognize the correlation between a good school system and home equity (a valued school system becomes an attraction that can add at best $10K to a home’s value). A good school system not only provides individual benefit, but it provides an opportunity to uplift the surrounding communities and improve the chances of others less fortunate.

Some people make a personal decision not to be involved. And that is okay! But understand that "no man is an island." The African American heritage is one that grew out of the villages and communal living lifestyle borne out of Africa. A tribe did not survive, unless everyone worked together to secure food, provide protection and raise the children. In the Sandtown community those needs for survival still exist, the question is how many of us are carrying our share of the communal responsibility?

Community apathy allows the personal interests of others to succeed at accomplishing personal agendas. There are interests that have purchased land for the sole purpose of serving as an obstacle to community progress. On the surface, it may appear that they want commercial development. When you look at certain parts of North Fulton and compare it to parts of South Fulton, you get a variety of personal agendas that reflect individual definitions of commercial development. Can anyone possibly see a difference if there was a joint effort to identify and define the type of commercial development our community would support and embrace? Development that not only fulfilled a financial interest, but also promoted sidewalks for positive health and traffic benefits. We can accomplish this in Sandtown, but involvement is needed and we must begin to look at issues in a broader sense and not always focus on the narrow issue of "what’s in it for me?"

The purpose of this commentary is to appeal to your sense of pride, heritage and heart. Sandtown has the potential to become the jewel of our city. We have precious land that has a multitude of unique geological configurations; a community that houses distinguished citizens and learned professionals; a quietude and tranquility that most of us would not trade for anything. Our vision should reflect a plan for the future. Development is not going away and traffic is not going to dwindle. Too often we find ourselves in the role of reacting to a proposed development plan rather than being an active participant in the planning process. If development is going to happen anyway, doesn’t it make sense for us as a community to be involved in the planning stages so that we can create a community that reflects our needs and desires? A workable solution like sidewalks, trails and subways provide reasonable and needed systems to maintain the character and improve our quality of life. Fast food establishments are plentiful and abound on the edges of the Sandtown area. A functional village that can serve as a central place for congregating, that meets the needs for shopping, and that can delight our children to grow and build memories right here at home is certainly an attainable goal.

And let’s focus on a bigger issue: Making investments in your own our own community as opposed to continuously developing other areas. The day is here and the time is now. Let’s meet community apathy at its door and get involved. If each of us makes a commitment to help the Sandtown Vision Group in one small role or task, we can make a difference. Think about it!

John A. Davis

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