It’s no secret that DeKalb County’s schools face difficult times. A regional accrediting body put the district on probation, accusing the school board of mismanaging the system. The governor has replaced most of the school board in an effort to avoid the loss of accreditation.
Students fear that loss of accreditation could hurt their chances for winning scholarships or admission to out-of-state colleges.
Reporter Newspapers asked students attending Chamblee High School, Cross Keys High School and Dunwoody High School what the turmoil at the top levels of the district meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.
For the new board, building trust will be hard
In 1999, I was number 16. My parents and I participated in the lottery that would decide if I could enter the Pre-K program at Austin Elementary. Competition was cutthroat and My parents were relieved when my number was called. Back then, the DeKalb County School System was one of the best school systems in the state.
Gradually, I began to see flaws in the system, and now, the evidence is disturbing. At Dunwoody High, our textbooks are outdated, some even held together by duct tape fibers.
In December 2012, DeKalb County schools were placed under “accredited probation” by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). It seemed that the board members refused to take responsibility for their actions.
My first thoughts were those of panic, annoyance and bitterness. In the midst of college applications, managing two jobs, and maintaining my grades, this was the last thing I needed to be worrying about.
As a senior, I will be able to graduate from high school and move on to a prestigious college with an accredited diploma. However, I cannot forget about younger students. They are victims of a school system that has not been putting students’ success before themselves.
Recently, new board members were chosen to replace the old. I am on my guard because I still do not trust a system that abused its power. Everything I have achieved, I worked hard toward. That is more than I can say about the board.
Building trust is going to be the greatest obstacle the new board members will face. They must prove that they are motivated to get back to the top again. But for the students this time.
My diploma reflects work by ‘me and the more than 30 teachers I’ve had’
A positive page has turned in the novel of the DeKalb County School District. The plot, which once consisted of units on corruption and poor governance, has now been replaced with six chapters about leadership and new ideas.
As a student though, the story might as well have never changed.
My teachers from August—months before the accreditation status of DeKalb County Schools was reduced to “accredited on probation”—are the very same teachers who will instruct me come May. The textbooks, hallways, desks, lockers, and fellow students who greeted me on my first day of the school year will be the same ones that I will temporarily leave behind for the summer.
Yet, if the county were to lose accreditation in December 2013 (a scenario I hope is unlikely), the “stamp” of approval on my diploma—or a lack thereof—would bear an entirely different meaning.
Sitting in a classroom, it is hard to comprehend the concept of accreditation. It is not the nine Board of Education members who will truly dictate the level of my educational success or failure. My high school diploma will be a reflection of me and the more than 30 teachers I have encountered since entering the district in fourth grade.
The goal of accreditation in trying to ensure a quality standard in education is noble, but it should not eclipse what happens in individual classrooms or homes.
Student: ‘This can affect me and my dreams’
There is unrest among the students in DeKalb County as they await the answer to the question everyone involved with DeKalb wants answered: Will we be losing our accreditation?
The opinions of the students at Cross Keys seem to all have one thing in common – they don’t want to be affected by what they didn’t cause.
“It’s unfair that the system would lose accreditation, altering the lives of so many students, faculty, and staff, if we aren’t even the reason for the problem,” said Chao Lin, a junior at Cross Keys High School.
“We come to school each day, and do what is required. We are receiving a quality education, and have devoted ourselves to our education for all this time. I can’t even fathom having to deal with the potential struggles of getting into college with an unaccredited diploma. The board needs to get it together fast,” said Melissa Versane, also a junior at Cross Keys.
Although the underclassmen may not be as immediately affected as the Class of 2014, there are still some underclassmen who are not taking this situation lightly.
“I’m worried because this can affect me and my dreams,” Juan Hernandez, a freshman at Cross Keys High School remarked about the potential accreditation loss.
“I just hope that they are able to overcome the problems so that we, as the students, don’t have to suffer consequences of an irresponsible school board,” said Carmen Lagunas, a junior at Cross Keys High School. She, along with many other students of DeKalb, continue to attend school, hopeful for a positive outcome in the future of their school system.