1

Jeff Meadors: Charter school bills' passage should be wake up call to public schools

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

While I do not support HR 1162, it is my personal belief that our public systems statewide must step up their game and make good decisions about improving student achievement in order to earn public trust and convince the electorate that school boards can set policy to improve public schools.

It is not OK to dwell in mediocrity. It is not OK to move non-performers from building to building. And as Senate Bill 84 sets forth, it is not OK to hire friends and relatives when proven high-performers show greater propensity for leadership.The passage of HR 1162 by the Georgia House is a wake-up call for those who govern and set policy for public schools. Our students, our workforce development, and our tax digest all depend on strong classrooms. Boards cannot afford to be co-opted by renegades disguised as reformers; they must think on their own.Schools must reinforce support for high-quality teachers, rid the ranks of low-performing administrators, use solid research outcomes to inform pedagogy, and ensure the safety of public schools through discipline that is firm, fair and consistent. Only then will the overwhelming majority of the public fully believe that local boards and competent leaders can manage schools.Public school leaders can respond to HR 1162 by crying foul, tucking their tails or proving their salt by moving swiftly to document non-performing school leaders toward nonrenewal and appropriate due process. Leaders set the tone in buildings throughout Georgia's 180 school systems. Unsafe school climates translate into poor achievement. As stated before by John Maxwell, everything rises and falls on leadership.If elected and appointed leaders fail to get a handle on school performance, then charter commission and voucher advocates will step up the competition for dollars. If school leaders make decisions that generate poor public perception, then schools risk public trust and collapse into the arms of vouchers and state agencies.There is nothing good about an Atlanta-based commission having a say in local school decisions, but a strong message is emerging from the current national trend toward charters: the public is losing trust in the value of six-figure salaried school leadership. We must shift our focus and dollars on classroom teachers or risk the impending fallout. It is coming.The passage of HR 1162 carries with it a reverberating alarm and educators cannot afford to snooze. Strong hiring, support of classroom teachers, swift discipline, safe schools and high performers are required to turn this thing around.

With the current affairs of schools characterized heavily in recent press by sagging pants, paint ball explosions and student arrests none of which increases student achievement, the quality of public education appears a dubious enterprise to some voters who may take their dollars elsewhere with November votes.

When school administrators send disruptive students back to class chomping on candy and basking in the glow of a derisive joyride in the front office, something is tragically awry. And the Georgia House and Senate apparently agree.Jeff Meadors is vice chairman of the Newton County Board of Education. He represents District 1.