QUESTIONS I’D LIKE TO ASK AT TONIGHT’S SCHOOL BOARD MEETING, NOVEMBER 21, 2019


By Bertis Downs

Due to a volunteer opportunity, I won’t be there for the school board meeting tonight (but I guess I’ll watch it on YouTube sometime tomorrow). I hope many other people go and participate in this key local part of American democracy, the school board responsible for the most important public task of all— educating the children of our community.

If I was going, these are the comments I would be making, and I would try hard to do it straightforwardly, supportively and with a positive approach.

CCSD leaders, please help me understand why it is OK that we continue to hemorrhage key staff both at the central office (I won’t name names but the key people who’ve left recently leave huge gaps in the district’s institutional capacity) and in the schools (in our 21 schools, I’m told that only two principals are still there from two years ago).

And then there are the many standout career educators who are now teaching in nearby districts even though they still live and would love to work in Athens, but not under current conditions .How is any of that good for CCSD and how is it positively affecting learning outcomes for our children?

How is it OK that the management of our district careens from one crisis to another whether it is the steady diminishment of the Local School Governance Teams, an essential feature of the charter agreement we made with the state, or the most recent budget impasse saved only in the final hour before the vote, or the decision to build or not to build new central office because the Career Academy either does or does not need to take over the entire H.T. Edwards facility, to the decision to make long-overdue physical improvements on Clarke Middle School, or not. Why do we have this pattern: months of rancorous threats and intimidation, and finally somehow pressured decisions get made only after an outcry within the community?How does any of that help children learn? Do any of them benefit from this chaos? Has anyone asked the superintendent how the Broad Foundation position that he is seeking, or the payments made by CCSD to his “professional mentor” Robert Avossa, or the latest Public Relations firm we are paying, how does any of that help children learn? Would you mind sharing the thinking with the rest of us because many are losing patience, are no longer suspending their good judgment and are sadly losing faith in the efficacy of CCSD’s central mission: educating all of the community’s children.I do not think any of this is normal or good. And while Yes it is indeed disruptive, it is not okay, not if what we want is to provide an effective education for the children in our district.

Meanwhile, thank you to all the CCSD teachers, leaders and support staff doing their utmost every day despite the chaos and instability at the top.And of course, Go Glads and Go Jags! Yes, In the midst of all this, there are also some very good things happening in our schools every day, thanks to the kids and adults doing their best every day.


Bertis Downs is an Athens attorney and public education advocate.

tis Downs

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