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Fulton board president: Committed to working with parents, teachers

In the last 10 days, I’ve published three guest columns critical of the Fulton County School System in the wake of the resignation of popular Superintendent Jeff Rose, two by parents and one by a retired teacher. Today, the president of the school board addresses some of their concerns.

Linda Bryant represents District 4, which includes areas in Chattahoochee Hills, College Park, Fairburn, Palmetto, Union City and southwest Atlanta. Bryant is a former teacher, PTA president, local school advisory committee chair, and chair of the Superintendent's Advisory Committee. She is a past member of the Fulton Education Foundation Board of Directors and the Fulton County Employees' Pension Board and is now serving on the board of the Fulton County Employees' Charitable Fund. 

I have two more pieces about Fulton Schools that I will share in the next few days. Rose’s surprising decision to step down after two years in the job has loosed a lot of frustrations about the direction of the district. 

By Linda Bryant 

Recent blogs on “Get Schooled” have raised multiple concerns about challenges facing the Fulton County School District -- many of which are concerns the Fulton Board of Education shares with our community. 

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As president of the board, I represent the entire school system; however, I live in south Fulton and recently held a community meeting in my district where some of these same concerns were raised to me personally. Be assured, the board is committed to listening and values this input. In fact, we hold two public meetings as a board per month and allot for public comment in each, so we can hear from you and address challenges. Additionally, we each hold community meetings in our district once a month. These townhall-styled meetings, which are unique for a board of education, allow us another opportunity to create two-way dialogue among our parents, staff and constituents.

Fulton Board of Education President Linda Bryant

This AJC blog also serves an important function by providing a venue for additional public discourse on education in Georgia. Reading the many points raised by readers’ submissions actually helps to demonstrate the complexity and variety of issues the board must weigh and deliberate on a regular basis. One individual recently expressed concern about high taxes and millage rates, which was noted that we recently reduced. And another was interested in teacher retention, which in no small part is affected by funding for teacher pay, resources and training. Obviously, these two points require a sense of balance. Reduction of the millage rate focuses on remaining revenue neutral, which by doing so, puts strain on the budget when there are equal expectations for teacher salary increases.

In some cases, the issues raised may be out of the control of the local board. For example, we have been very active in the effort to limit testing mandated by the federal and state government and worked closely with the Georgia Legislature to enact changes to state law allowing local districts more autonomy in the testing arena. With this added flexibility we have continued our efforts to control and limit the over testing of our students.

As the board, we have been committed to a strong vision for our schools and are proud of the Strategic Plan we have developed for the next five years. Through this process, working with staff and community, we have built a guiding focus and framework for areas like our budget and academic priorities. Individual superintendents have indeed added different strengths to the process of developing and implementing these priorities, both strategically and operationally, as have the committed and talented cabinet members, area superintendents and personnel in our district office.

However, we feel the greatest assets we have are the educators, administrators and support staff who work on a day-to-day basis with our schools to ensure we are providing the best educational tools possible. These leaders are the ones who help implement the broader goals at the individual level – with the students. Understanding the importance of developing a strong cadre of leaders, we diligently and consistently track our teacher retention, as well as examine ways to continue building a strong pipeline of individuals who impact student achievement.

While we have many great accomplishments collectively as a district, we still have many, big challenges before us. We continue to be committed to working with the community, parents, teachers and staff to face them together.  

 

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.

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