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CSD Superintendent discusses new role, equity on Decaturish Twitch Show

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CSD Superintendent discusses new role, equity on Decaturish Twitch Show

City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman joined the Decaturish Twitch Show on Wednesday, May 26. She was joined by panelists Decatur High Black Student Union member Genesis Reddicks and Decaturish contributor Hans Utz. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman joined the Decaturish Twitch Show on Wednesday, May 26. She was joined by Decatur High Black Student Union member Genesis Reddicks and Decaturish contributor Hans Utz. The panel discussed a variety of topics including diversity and making sure stakeholder voices are heard.

CSD has undergone a leadership change within the last month as former Superintendent David Dude left the district and Fehrman was appointed to the role for one year. The last year has seemingly been a rocky time for the school district in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and given the investigation into allegations that Dude took more vacation than he was allowed under his contract.

So is Fehrman the right person to lead the district through this transition? Her answer is yes.

“I would actually challenge that it’s a rocky time,” Fehrman said. “I think that even though there has been a lot of stuff in the media and the news and various events, I think City Schools of Decatur has never lost the eye on what is most important to our school system and that’s the students. Every decision that is made in City Schools of Decatur is focused on doing what’s best for our students.”

Watch the video of the May 26th Decaturish Twitch show:

She cited her years of experience working in education.

“I think I am the best person to take us through this because I’ve got three years of experience here in the school system,” Fehrman said. “I’ve been a principal. I’ve worked in schools. I’ve had 20 years on my resume of really good, quality school experience. I know the system. I know the community. I know the students, the principals. I’ve supervised the principals for three years so I’m very aware of their strengths and what amazing talents they have as school leaders. I think with all that as my background, I am more than ready to help make sure that we will navigate through closing out the school year, two more days.”

When it comes to student voices, often times it’s taken as a point of suggestion or consideration, which has led students to feel unheard in the decision-making process, Reddicks said. She asked Fehrman about what steps are in place to make sure that students are being listened to and are involved in decision-making.

“I do believe very strongly in student voice. That is very important to me. Having been a principal, I met very often with my students, had a student advisory team,” Fehrman said, adding that her student advisory team was instrumental in launching Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports [PBIS] at Bay Creek Middle School in Grayson, Ga.

PBIS is a framework that provides a structure and method for school teams to examine behavior data and trends in their school. Teams work with their staff and students to mitigate the most problematic behaviors through intentional teaching and support structures, according to the CSD website.

“Even here in City Schools of Decatur, I feel very strongly that students need to have a voice,” Fehrman said. “We have a very well educated group of students. We have students who are very attuned to what is happening in their community and we need to capitalize on that.”

For the next school year, Fehrman plans to have a student advisory committee, made up of students from the middle and high schools, that will meet with her monthly.

“I very much am eager to involve students and hear their voices, so they can help inform decisions,” Fehrman said. “Looking at stakeholder engagement in general, I think people have seen already that I take a great deal of time gathering stakeholder input before I make a decision. I believe that my role is really to facilitate a decision being made and to hear the different voices around the table so that we can make a well-informed decision.”

Questions were also asked about how Fehrman plans to shift the tone of the leadership and build a collaborative environment in the school district. Utz mentioned that the reason why Dude is no longer the superintendent is because there were some questions about things that were done, decisions that were made and the tone that was taken at the leadership level.

Fehrman said she will engage with the school leadership teams that are made up of parents and staff members and have them help her make decisions and gather input from the schools and communities. One member of the SLTs also serves on the system-level charter leadership team. Fehrman plans to meet with them monthly, she said.

She will also regularly meet with the teacher advisory council, which has representatives from every school.

“That team, we’ve identified several topics that we want to take up next year. Staff morale is one that comes up consistently as being an issue,” Fehrman said. She further explained that she wants to hear ideas from staff and figure out how to tackle this issue.

In addition to meeting with students and staff monthly, Fehrman will meet with the Black Parent Alliance monthly as well. She has also reached out to Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights to get input from the organization regularly.

“That’s an important role to play as the superintendent is to make sure that those community groups feel heard, feel involved in decision-making,” Fehrman said. “I want to invite people to the table to be proactive, to give their input before decisions are made, before the final bill is written to make sure that we’ve heard them upfront. I think building that involvement and engagement ahead of time helps them see, yes, we want you involved, we want you engaged at the table as much as we want any other group engaged so that we can make sure that those groups have a voice and their voice is lifted.”

Another issue that was raised was how the new superintendent can assure teachers and staff that they can voice concerns publicly and not suffer any professional consequences. Decaturish Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt said during the Twitch show that people would approach him about issues but wouldn’t want to talk because they feared retribution or retaliation.

“I’ll try to be a role model for that,” Fehrman said. “I believe strongly in a coaching mindset as we support our teachers and staff and even students. Everyone makes mistakes. No one’s perfect.”

Equity and diversity were big topics of discussion during the Twitch show. Reddicks raised a concern from the Student Coalition for Equity, which is fully run by CSD students, about holding faculty and the administration accountable for potential harmful behavior that causes hurt specifically toward marginalized communities.

That accountability comes through the district’s equity action plan, through implementing PBIS and setting the stage with restorative practices, Fehrman said.

“That is one of those things, I think just taking those things that we already have in place up to the next level will help ensure that teachers, if they cause harm to a student or if they further show actions that are not helping our marginalized students, that they are seeing that action and are ready to take the next steps to try to fix it,” she added.

In addition to accountability for harmful behavior, Reddicks asked about how Fehrman plans to involved herself in concrete changes, as in policy and social changes, throughout the district that will discourage harmful behavior that targets marginalized communities.

“That’s where we really pull in our resources from our equity department to help us review policies and procedures and that’s part of our equity action plan is to have an ongoing review of policies and procedures using our equity evaluation tool so that as these policies come up in that schedule that we review them, that we revise them and make sure that they are equitable going forward,” Fehrman said.

The district also has an equitable hiring tool and several district leaders are people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. CSD has a policy in place to make sure that the district staff are reflective of the community.

“That’s one of the reasons we use the equitable hiring tool is we want to make sure as we look at hiring staff are they bringing that perspective,” Fehrman said. “I don’t want to sit around the table and look at a whole table full of white women helping me make a decision. That’s not going to be an informed decision that’s going to be best for all the stakeholders that we have in our school system.”

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