Rural superintendent: Dysfunctional districts justify Opportunity School District

Gov. Nathan Deal is shown here promoting his Opportunity School District in East Point last fall. Voters rejected the OSD, but a House bill attempts a stripped-down and less invasive OSD. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Allen Fort is the interim superintendent/interim principal of Taliaferro County K-12 schools, a 163-student system in east central Georgia. Fort is the former superintendent of Quitman County Schools. He’s also been a school improvement specialist with the state Department of Education and principal of schools across the state.

In his capacity with Quitman Schools in 2012, Fort made a statement to the AJC that I rank in my top 10 educator quotes. In talking about equalization grants and disparities in school funding, Fort compared the school systems to car owners.

“What we have is a Ford Pinto,” Fort said. “What Fulton and Cobb have are a Cadillac and Ferrari. What Gwinnett has is a Lamborghini. When their Lamborghini has a flat tire, they get an equalization grant. When our Pinto has a flat, we get nothing.”

Today, Fort is not talking about equalization grants or cars. He explains why he supports the Opportunity School District.

The debate over the OSD is vigorous this week with Gov. Nathan Deal speaking about it tonight at Impact Church in East Point. Taking an offensive posture, Deal told the crowd he and the Legislature have given school districts more flexibility and funding than they’ve ever had “in the history of this state” and they have not used it to improve student learning.

Fort is a bit more nuanced in his endorsement of the OSD.

By Allen Fort

I am a firm believer in the local city or county governance of the educational system, with the state providing leadership, guidance, and support under a common set of rules. Through my experiences in education around this state, I understand each and every system has its own unique set of circumstances under which it operates, demographically, financially, and politically.

It is a proven fact these systems, with boards and administrators who exhibit common sense in leadership, have a consistent track record of understanding ever-changing educational issues, then addresses those issues with sound processes of examination, analysis and judgement and then governs and leads the system by always keeping the welfare of the child foremost in their decisions made are successful.

Many of the decisions may be controversial, politically charged, or financially burdening, but the future of the child is always the No. 1 priority because these children will grow up one day to be productive citizens, hopefully in that same county and in our state.

However, I need to ask these questions:

•Has your system had two or three superintendents who have served in the last three to five years and then been fired, non-renewed, or has left for another similar position?

•Does your community tend to make decisions based on adult concerns rather than justifying them for the good of the students in the system?

•Do you believe your taxes paid to run your system are mismanaged and ill spent?

•Has your county not gained or even lost population because you have a school system that is unattractive or failing, and has been for some time?

•Has your system been failing for the past decade and have that same bleak outlook for the next decade?

•As a citizen of this state, do you want to see more of your tax money spent on failing schools where local control is abysmal at best?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you, as a local community, have lost control of your local system. While a majority of our systems in Georgia are of high-quality, there are several that can answer yes to every question above. Through the years they have proven they cannot and will not govern and operate a school system where the good of the child influences 100 percent of their decisions.

Thus it is time, on behalf of all of the students in these systems, to have the opportunity to receive a high quality education, free from petty politics, soap opera drama, and bitter controversy, which create chaos in local school systems.

While one may have an argument over “state takeover,” when you have answered in the affirmative any of the questions above, someone needs to step in, create a fundamentally sound plan tailored to the needs and issues of that system and then set out to provide a world-class education for these boys and girls of this failing system and for the good of this state.

It is time to provide Opportunity for these kids who have no choice in the matter and demand quality education for all our children in Georgia.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

38 comments
add57
add57

Under the influence of a government that participates in a race to the bottom. That does not attend to school populations are trapped in low wage politics and cannot find their most basic needs met. The argument that their system resembles a poorly functioning system is accurate. It runs but is not adequate. The metaphor ends with that image. There is no political will to change it otherwise restoration of the middle class would be a central theme

Earnestly
Earnestly

I have never met Allen Fort, but I am disappointed in him now. As an educator, although I'm not sure why we call the bureaucrats educators, he should offer a more thoughtful opinion. It seems like envy of  larger school systems has clouded his thinking. He is correct that several metro counties have completely lost control of their school districts. However the disingenuous, poorly conceived, take over plan proposed by the Governor is not a thoughtful person's remedy.

redweather
redweather

I assume Taliaferro County owes its continued existence to the fact that it is the birthplace of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy. But with a population of just over two thousand, perhaps the legislature might want to consider combining it with a bordering county, like Washington or Greene. 

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

"Does your community tend to make decisions based on adult concerns rather than justifying them for the good of the students in the system?"


Thank you Dr. Fort. One question, however, will suffice.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“Georgia, you have been on my mind though. You see, the Georgia initiative to create an Opportunity School District, essentially a state-sanctioned method for charter school conversion, is modeled after those in Tennessee and Louisiana. Having watched these colossal failures from the front row over the last several years, I can safely say if there is one thing I know a little about, it’s an Achievement School District, or as I like to say, an underachievement district. After all, I’ve been writing about them for yearsand yearsnow. The concept itself has been flawed since its beginnings.

More at… https://norinrad10.com/2016/10/17/georgia-on-my-mind/

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Hmm.  The questions Taliaferro County School District Superintendent Allen Fort poses here are much like asking one to understand How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus.

Of course, instead of the Broad Virus, we are faced with the looming OSD Virus.  So the challenge at hand is to defeat the OSD Virus and any of its mutations from the states of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan before they can infest our school districts and, indeed, our state.

Another comment
Another comment

A rural district with 163 students that has to provide bussing, to a spread out area. Provides special education and provide meals is not going to be a target for anyone to take over.

My child went to a great less than full time private school whose model was to keep the tuition affordable $5,500. ( about what Georgia public schools have per students). The middle school students went two days a week and high school 3 days). Shared teachers and facilities. Which were rented in an office park. Everyone brought their lunch. Everyone brought their children to and from school. The model was that they needed 55 students to break even. Their were no SPED kids. No ESOl kids. Only highly motivated kids and parents. It still couldn't break even.

The small class sizes were great. The price was great. Kids learn as much in compressed week, because their were no disruptive issues of larger schools. But not enough money.

Deal and crew will have to fund at least $25k like top privates to make a small district like this work. Oops I almost forgot the Woodward and St. FRancis Busses are another $3k a year.

whatworks4children
whatworks4children

Has Alan Fort served as superintendent in an Urban setting? Sounds like Mr. Fort has been influenced by specific  people appointed  by the Governor........he 's certainly seen with them.......So, his bidding for changing the constitution begs the question , Did he take time to read the bill?   If he did, there is NO way, he could justify the Governor's actionsHe's entitled to his opinion, but the Amendment's wording on the ballot does not agree with the bill's contents.  Perhaps an English teacher could help him understand the contents of the bill! Or a Reading teacher could be of service to him. ......

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

These same "solutions" have been tried in other states - all have failed. While the idea sounds good at first, the devil is in the details. Vote NO on this bogus issue and if your state senator or rep voted for it, then FIRE him or her.

L_D
L_D

If local citizens are dissatisfied with the actions of their local school boards, then it is upon the local voters to replace the board. 

newsphile
newsphile

While serving as interim superintendent, he should have helped facilitate merging this system with one in a neighboring county to provide these students with more opportunities for success.  I see that he is failing to do anything to help the situation.  With 163 students, this system will remain as is, no matter whether OSD passes or not.  The state would take over only  those schools that have sufficient funding to grease palms. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

With 163 students, I would suggest that his system would never be taken over, no matter what.  No profit there.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady


Not enough loaves and fishes to support a battalion of educrat central office friends and families,either.


Just sayin'

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig @Wascatlady I can assure you the state cannot manage anything for the same amount of dollars.  Political management always costs more, produces less results, and ends up a larger disaster than ever.

Astropig
Astropig

His earlier analogy is pretty good,(but maybe lost on millennials that don't remember just how bad the Pinto really was).I have looked at this in a little bit different light.


To me,these local school boards are like the slumlords that keep the poorest and least powerful residents in their worst properties.(And ignore their pleas for improvements)We drive by these places and tutt-tutt about how "somebody should do something about that" and then go on our merry way because our place is warm and dry.


The same crowd that is screaming about this intervention in these schools is perfectly happy with codes inspectors that have the power to shut down, or order improvements in substandard housing,to protect kids well being.They don't criticize the inspector when he points out the obvious shortcomings in their surroundings,as Governor Deal is doing in this case.


Those slumlords are also usually pretty well connected politically,so they get away with a lot of unconscionable things for a long time,just like we see here.


And those slumlords spread a lot of money around on anything and everything except fixing up their awful properties,and that corrupts the local politicos and the local media,which wants a piece of the action-just like here.


IMHO-It's time to stop catering to the education slumlords and paying some attention to the poor suffering tenants.

jezel-dog / Coach - me
jezel-dog / Coach - me

" dysfunctional school districts " and a failing GOP agenda....what do they have in common ?...Intellectual dishonesty.

Astropig
Astropig

@jezel


Send your kids to these schools.It's easy to sacrifice the futures of kids that you'll never meet.

Astropig
Astropig

@jezel @Astropig


Then send your kids there.I'm sure that when they drop out and start prowling around your town looking for money without a job,you'll be singing that same tune.

J.a. Teasley
J.a. Teasley

The GADOE's Office of School Improvement is credited with successfully turning around 198 of 233 schools in the past three years. That would seem to indicate that improving schools can be accomplished collaboratively when the State works WITH schools. So why then, is it necessary for the State to bypass locally elected Boards of Education? Surely the Office of School Improvement is available to assist rural schools as well as urban schools.

Ryan McKinnon
Ryan McKinnon

again, where is the research or literature reviewed that supports such a style of takeover. Rather than cite opinion and mere hopes, provide evidence to the people that it CAN work. In the meantime...I will continue to support NO

Tiffany Shipman Bourne
Tiffany Shipman Bourne

The only information is where and how it has failed. Take a look at New Orleans.

Rebecca Hendrix
Rebecca Hendrix

Agreed! Contrastingly, there is a substantial body of research and historical evidence that proves just the opposite. Privitazation in education--selling out to takeover/corporations--has never worked.

mgunter
mgunter

I would have voted for this change if Deal hadn't been pushing it but he vetoed 2 important pieces of legislation this year that had passed both house ........so now I will be hard pressed to vote for anything he wants!

lfelton
lfelton

@mgunter So your dissatisfaction with Deal is more important to you than the education of kids in failing school systems? Talk about being petty. 

Ellen Pruit Adams
Ellen Pruit Adams

Why do we have a school district of 163 kids? Perhaps if we consolidated some of these tiny school districts, the money saved by erasing the duplication of effort would provide plenty of funding. Just a thought.....

Blynne Roberts
Blynne Roberts

So, the state can manage the local taxes better? Really now??? What's in it for Allen Fort??

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Mr. Fort shares absolutely no plan for what the OSD would do to improve the situation, except to take the schools and money away from the local taxpayers and voters. Shame on you Mr. Fort.


We have a model for the OSD. It is the Governor appointed, chronically failing State Charter Commission School District that hides all hiring, vendor payments, and spending, from taxpayers. It's high school has a 7.7% graduation rate, has been failing for years, but still got it's charter renewed. If there was a plan to turn around "failing" schools, the state run charter commission would use it on their own schools.

Andrea Conaway
Andrea Conaway

Interesting that he is able to endorse this publicly when superintendents and educators have been told they can not use their resources to promote opposition to this amendment. Appears the Gov. only wants the voice of those who agree with his school money grab.

30303
30303

With OSD parents and children at least have a chance at a better future. With the status quo, continued failure is assured.

Vote YES on Question 1.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@30303

And pray tell, what is the plan for improved curriculum and method of delivery that will bring about this "better future"? 

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

if the state has all the answers as to how to run a better school system, why don't they just share all that wonderful information?

chaunda
chaunda

If Deal claims 166 schools are consistently failing students (in his ad), why should there be a change to the state constitution? If the state has enough money to evaluate OSD as a great idea, shouldn't that additional funding and expertise been pushed into the schools identified as consistently failing?

Imagine providing those identified schools with automatic waivers from some items which are being considered for OSD schools.

If waivers can be given after OSD is set up and the state constitution changed, it seems that waivers and resources should have been offered a long time ago to prevent this.

How is is that state voters will decide what local taxpayer money and resources will extend to? This is akin to Alabama and Tennessee dictating to Georgia what to do over water that drops in Georgia: and Deal would never want another state (community) telling him how to handle Georgia's resources. Why suddenly should rural voters tell metro districts how to run their affairs?