Frustrated North DeKalb parents say they are losing confidence in the ability of county school officials to deal with the possible loss of the system’s accreditation.
“Parents are frustrated and discouraged and we’re angry,” said Sarah Smith, co-president of the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parents Council. “We’re starting to lose hope.”
Amy LeVasseur, co-president of the Dunwoody Elementary PTO, called the school system a “top concern” among parents. “Parents want answers and I think they deserve to get answers from the people who are running their schools,” she said.
The accrediting agency AdvancED placed the DeKalb system on accreditation probation last year because of actions by the board. That has convinced some parents that the board needs to be replaced.
“I think that if we do not change the current board, we’re going to lose accreditation down the line,” Smith said.
Parents said they still feel their childrens’ schools are doing a fine job. But they worry that things could change.
Some said they’ve heard neighbors talk recently about pulling their children from public schools and sending them to private schools. Parents have organized campaigns writing letters to Gov. Nathan Deal asking for state action. Some worry that businesses or new residents will choose to locate elsewhere because of the DeKalb schools’ problems.
And some Dunwoody officials want their own, separately accreditated schools.
“People are not considering public schools as a viable option right now,” said Kim Gokce, president of the Cross Keys Foundation, which supports Cross Keys High School in Brookhaven.
“It’s being overshadowed by governance problems. That’s the ultimate crime, in my opinion, that’s going on right now.”
In recent weeks, the board has taken several actions that have stirred new complaints from parents that board members are not deailing properly with the threat of probation.
The board replaced the school superintendent. After board members could not elect a new chairman, the board’s sitting chairman resigned the post. The board took state officials to court.
“I certainly don’t want us to be on probation, but we’re on probation for a reason,” Gokce said.
“Winning the probation fight is not a priority for me. Addressing the fundamental reasons for probation is a priority for me. …I’m concerned that they’re focused on winning the fight.”
The board’s legal challenge to a process allowing state officials to remove DeKalb board members especially angered some parents.
Stacey Harris, who has two children in Austin Elementary, said the action was a waste of money. “They’re taking away money from my children,” she said.
Shari Wassell, co-president of the Dunwoody Elementary PTO, said many of her neighbors were drawn to the community by the quality of the schools.
They still support their neighborhood schools, she said, but they’re more and more dismayed by actions at the top.
“It’s really frustrating,” she said. “I think people are just tired of it.”