Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Much debate is raging within the Dunwoody High School community about schedules. At issue: block scheduling, where students take 4 classes each semester, just as in college. Some students thrive with the pace and intensity. Many do not. Some teachers utilize the expanded classroom time skillfully and productively. Many do not.

The discussion is heated, emotional, and sometimes surreal as parents deploy logic, careful respect, ballistic jolts of emotional diatribe, earnest pleas for or against a particular option, and multitudes of emails, telephone calls, and carpool chats.

Why not? Our children are the victims or beneficiaries of the decisions adults make on their behalf.

One of the more interesting discussion points has been that students are the primary stakeholders in the school. Comparing public education to a business model, proponents posit that the most important customer of the "product" is the student.

I disagree.

Any business who focuses its energies on one segment of its customer base - and one that provides no funding or time and talent for the venture - is not going to succeed.

The primary stakeholder in public education is, at the broadest level, the taxpayer. If a school can't convince taxpayers to provide basic funding as well as SPLOST and other special tax supports, then it will not thrive. The community must have trust in management and substantive belief in the quality of the end product - educational excellence.  If schools do their job right, students get to go to college or have the skills for a job straight out of high school, and function capably in day to day life.

Just as a nonprofit has to demonstrate fiscal soundness and success in mission to attract donors, a school must demonstrate measurable achievement in its educational mission as well as those all-important intangibles: parent, teacher, and student satisfaction and happiness.

Dunwoody schools are blessed by a high degree of parent involvement, a factor that research proves over and over again is the critical link in a school's ability to stay on mission and meet expectations. By and large, students do very well in Dunwoody. That fact has caused polarization within the county as the achievement gap grows from district to district. My focus is on my kids' schools. But I'm very much aware of the larger issues winnowing through the hierarchy of Board and administration oversight.

My student is not the primary stakeholder in his school.

I am.

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