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Decatur School Board hires firm to help system tackle racial disparities

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Decatur School Board hires firm to help system tackle racial disparities

Decatur's Beacon Hill Black Alliance held a forum at City Schools of Decatur's Central Office on Feb. 8., 2017. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur’s Beacon Hill Branch of the NAACP held a forum at City Schools of Decatur’s Central Office on Feb. 8. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

By Gabriel Owens, contributor 

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Decatur School Board approved spending $42,000 on a needs assessment to address racial disparities in the school system.

The initial budget for the project was $85,000.

The school board announced that it had hired Indiana-based Thomas P. Miller and Associates to conduct the assessment.

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The firm was chosen for their extremely positive feedback for their past work, the board said.

“Overall, we are doing better [with racial disparities] than nationally,” said Superintendent David Dude. “But internally, we can do much better.”

The firm will start the process by holding a meeting with CSD staff. It will then compile and review data about the school system, and finalize a needs assessment plan. The final report was initially slated for May, but may be pushed back since the original timetable anticipated the project starting in November.

Here is the proposal from Thomas P. Miller and Associates:

TPMA_GA CSD Proposal 9.29.17 (1)

Decatur has found that there are gaps in student achievement and student discipline. Data provided by the school system show that white students outperform their black peers in Decatur Schools. Black students are also more likely to be disciplined than white students.

The problems were discussed by parents and students during public comments at the board meeting.

“It’s seems so normal and ingrained, you don’t even think about it,” said one student, a senior at Decatur High School. “I now notice it, and think back to all the times I’ve seen black students get it worse for the same kind of [behavior] as whites. It’s almost criminal how we accept it as the norm.”

“Adults tend not to value sometimes, the voice being heard,” said another Decatur High Senior. “Whether on purpose or not, there is the idea … that a black voice, or a gay voice, or a woman’s voice means less than another.”

The School Board also received an update on plans for a new school on Talley Street, which will serve grades three through five. The board approved plans for the new school, which will cost $22.5 million and will seat 750 students. Work is going to start this spring with completion estimated by the fall of 2019.

Some of the proposed features of the new school include outdoor learning spaces, natural light area, flexible furniture, multipurpose, and large gathering spaces. There are also plans for making the school tech savvy, with WiFi outlets, projectable surfaces, and distance learning capabilities.

According to the plan presented at Tuesday’s meeting, many of the ideas that are being implemented in the project came from the community and their involvement. Overall, the proposed pictures show well-lit, futuristic-looking classrooms, an advanced media center, and other ahead-of-the-curve school designs.

Here’s the presentation from Tuesday’s meeting.


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