Athens unites to oppose the state school takeover


On Saturday, July 9, some 70 people gathered beneath the shady trees of the West Broad Market’s courtyard to stand up for public education. The event, organized by Athens for Everyone and the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), served to kick off efforts by the local coalition—chaired by Bertis Downs, Dan DeLamater, and Ken Dious—to defeat the so-called “Opportunity School District” proposal, the fate of which voters will decide on November 8. Attendees listened to multiple speakers, enjoyed cake pops from Dipped and Frosted (a local West Broad Market vendor), and engaged in meaningful conversations about our public schools.

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Speakers at Saturday’s event included Tawana Mattox of the Clarke County NAACP chapter; CCSD superintendent Dr. Lanoue; Kevin Mobley, a recent Clarke Central graduate; Katrina Daniel, principal at Gaines Elementary; two parents from Gaines; businessman and co-chair of the local efforts to Keep Georgia Schools Local, Dan DeLamater; and Janet Martin, parent and public education advocate.

The wide range of speakers touched on everything from the deceptive ballot wording to the impressive work of the students and staff at Gaines Elementary, the one school in Clarke County whose CCRPI scores label it as “failing.” This means Gaines Elementary is slated for takeover by the state if the constitutional amendment passes in November.Lanoue

Dr. Lanoue and parents spoke of the inadequacy of the CCRPI, the statewide accountability metric largely furnished by test scores, for determining a school’s success. This reliance on test scores oversimplifies, misrepresents, and even blatantly ignores the deep learning and relationship-building that goes on in our classrooms. To suggest that success is most comprehensively and accurately measured by a standardized test and best displayed in a single quantitative metric—as the state takeover proposal does—is to discount the hard work of students and teachers making great gains in the many areas which CCRPI does not capture. One Gaines Elementary parent invited us to come see the great work Gaines is doing in its classrooms, stressing the fact that so much engaged learning occurs that a test score fails to encapsulate.

Lest we allow the deceptive ballot wording to color voters’ judgment, we must continue to work together to educate folks on what this constitutional amendment really means. As the speakers at the local kickoff made clear, this proposal is about transferring local dollars, resources, and power away from schools and communities to a state bureaucrat or outsourced education provider. Flying in the face of local control, one must wonder what “opportunity,” and for whom, the crafters of the legislation are seeking.

As we plan many more events to engage voters and educate the public prior to November elections, I hope you will join those of us who banded together earlier this month in the call to “VOTE NO” on state takeover of our public schools. Our schools need support, not state intervention.

As Tawana Mattox of the Clarke County NAACP said on Saturday, “I’m united for the greater cause, which is for our children.”

Both GAE and Athens for Everyone are part of the Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, a statewide bipartisan coalition working to defeat the proposed amendment to the Georgia constitution. The statewide committee will host its campaign kickoff in Atlanta later this month.

Briana Bivens
July 20, 2016

To get involved, please email Briana Bivens, Athens for Everyone’s Education Campaign Coordinator, at brianabivens@gmail.com. Also, join us for Athens for Everyone’s next Education Campaign meeting on July 29 at 6pm at the Athens for Everyone office.

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