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South Fulton parents:  We need a more responsive school board

Franchesca Warren is a former teacher, instructional coach, and district leader with a master’s in instruction and curriculum. She operates The Educator's Room, a popular national blog and podcast dedicated to empowering teachers. She also manages a household of six. 

Warren is a Fulton County parent and writes today about the growing concerns about the district, especially among parents of south Fulton. 

Warren founded the Facebook group South Fulton Parents for Education, where many parents are sharing concerns about the school board in the wake of the surprising resignation of Superintendent Jeff Rose who took over the district in June of 2016.

Warren says, “Every parent in Fulton County Schools should be worried if the board -- yet again -- ignores our demands and goes back to business as usual.”

By Franchesca Warren 

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 

These words from South African leader Nelson Mandela ring true to me as a former teacher and as a parent of four children who have or will attend Fulton County schools. As a parent, I envision an education system where students are able to bloom into successful and capable adults after being in schools that meet their social, emotional and physical needs.

Ever since my oldest son was in kindergarten, I’ve been an involved parent. I’ve attended PTA meetings, chaperoned field trips, volunteered in the classroom, joined the School Governance Council and raised money for our schools -- because that’s the model of what involved parents should do. 

It wasn’t until this past year that I realized it wasn’t enough, and I needed to do more. So, I started a Facebook group that would give parents a space to get the help they need in a community of like-minded parents. For about a year, more than 800 of us have supported one another in disputes or questions parents may have had.

However, we have now realized there was something important to be done and it wouldn’t be accomplished without a fight: It was time to hold the Fulton County Board of Education accountable for the 100,000-plus students they represent.

Franchesca Warren

For so long, parents have talked in PTA circles or at Friday night football game about what they want for their child while in the system. They have talked about how they wanted band, orchestra and foreign language for all K-5 students, about how a mental health alliance is needed for the schools in south Fulton, about how there should be less standardized testing and a standard communication protocol for school board members to hold them accountable to their constituents. 

All of these things we’ve talked about for so long gained an urgency within the Facebook group. We had moms from north Fulton who chimed in and shared their struggles. We found common ground in the foundational belief that all of our kids deserve the best education available, regardless of their zip code.

Over a period of a couple of weeks, parents from all over the county drafted nine essential demands that we want to see in every Fulton school. And, on Oct. 18, we delivered these demands to the school board with the expectation that in 30 days we’d get a response. 

Among those nine demands: Band, orchestra, and foreign language in all K-5 schools, a standard communication for the school board to parents, and an establishment of a mental health alliance for students in south Fulton. 

These things are important because, with the increase in testing, our kids need outlets such as more fine arts and counseling. In addition, because so many of our board members do not answer our emails, phone calls or inquiries, we need an outreach system in place that parents can follow to assure responses in a specific and reasonable timeframe.

As we anxiously await to see if Fulton County Schools and its board will live up to their motto of “putting students first,” we will be back next week at the South Fulton Learning Annex with parents from all over the district to wait to see if deliver on their promises and not ignore the demands of us -- their constituents. 

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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