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Dear Decaturish – I’m a Democrat and I’m voting ‘Yes’ on Amendment 1

Avondale Estates D'ish Decatur Kirkwood and East Lake Metro ATL slideshow

Dear Decaturish – I’m a Democrat and I’m voting ‘Yes’ on Amendment 1

Photo obtained via https://gov.georgia.gov/
Photo obtained via https://gov.georgia.gov/

Photo obtained via https://gov.georgia.gov/

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Dear Decaturish,

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, voting yes on Amendment 1: Opportunity School District and I am a Democrat.

I’ve been reading a great book, “Emotions, Learning, and the Brain” by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang which has provided neurological scientific reasoning behind a theory I have been trying to impress on educators and administrators. What our schools need is serious overhaul of school culture, school discipline and school counseling. Immordio-Yang states, “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to build memories, engage complex thoughts, or make meaningful decisions without emotion…Put succinctly, we only think about things we care about.”

Before we determine if any curriculum, test, technology, or initiatives from the state or local administration are effective, we need to look at the emotional state of our students, particularly those who are struggling and in some schools this number is a majority. How many times have you looked at a troubled, or disruptive, or distracted, or unmotivated student and thought the student is being rude, disrespectful and needs to be given appropriate consequences? What if you looked at the student instead and thought about the emotional needs of the student that aren’t being met at home or at school and worked on ways to provide the counseling, skill building and culture that would foster a better emotional state for the student, whose brain could then actually facilitate learning?

Why is this relevant to Amendment 1? I believe that changing the culture of the school is the most important step towards turning these schools around. Clearly, up until this point, local control of the schools has not made these changes. Bringing schools into the Opportunity School District will bring about immediate review and decisions regarding principal and staff placement. The principal is the most influential person to bring about school culture change and the right principal also needs a staff that is supportive and willing to facilitate those changes throughout the school.

Why don’t I think local control is placing the right principals in the right schools? I have seen the result of a 10-year tenure of a principal in my local elementary school who didn’t allow parental involvement, destroyed relationships with the community and pushed parents to start a competing charter award winning school. And where did that ineffective principal go? To another elementary school in the district, instead of being fired. Would you want that principal at your child’s school? We now have an incredible principal, who has embraced parental involvement and is rebuilding many relationships in the community. He didn’t have to fire the former staff, they mostly left on their own. Either way, the new principal has a new staff and the school is now thriving.

Over 67,000 students in 127 schools don’t have time to wait on a district that isn’t taking their school needs seriously. In addition to principal and staffing review and changes, the Opportunity School district may decide to have a public charter school take over the school. Atlanta Metro area has a collective of high performing public charter school options who could be eligible. One main reason I believe this will be successful is because charters are developed with the idea offering a unique school environment and innovative strategies for teaching that engage students, parents and staff differently than traditional public schools.

A majority of the opponents of Amendment 1 are the very teachers and administrators who may need to be replaced in order to run a successful school, such as professional teachers groups, PTA’s run by long time educators who have heavy influence on their parent leaders and national teachers unions. National Education Association is spending $3.9 Million to fight Amendment 1 in Georgia. Don’t be fooled by their tagline, “Great Public Schools for Every Student,” their primary role is to protect teacher’s jobs, period. Their constituency is teachers NOT students. They collect hundreds of millions of dollars from teachers every year, not students.

It’s up to us to advocate on behalf of students. That’s why I am voting YES on Amendment 1. School districts are not employment agencies. If you aren’t doing the job effectively, we need to be spending our money on teachers who ARE effective. Every hour a student spends with an ineffective teacher, is an hour of education that student can never get back. At approximately six hours of school a day, that’s potentially 400,000 hours per day of ineffective education for over 67,000 students in Georgia.

– Maggie Paynich

Maggie Paynich has a Masters degree in School Counseling and is launching a middle school college preparation program in two middle schools, one afterschool program and developing community-base sessions through Atlanta Metro area this year.

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