Over the course of the past couple of years, the Dekalb County School System has gotten a lot of well-deserved bad press. There has been budget mismanagement, there are allegations of fraud, nepotism and cronyism, and all to the detriment of the students and teachers in the county.
Shame on me though. My children were in the magnet program, so they got the best teachers and smaller classes. I didn't pay enough attention because my children were not being marginalized like others in the county. I was upset by the stories, but I lived in my own happy magnet-school world.
But I've gotten more and more angry. And now it's gotten really personal because Sara's beloved chorus teacher, Greg Smith, didn't get his contract renewed - like many other teachers in the county. I don't know about the talents of the other teachers whose contracts didn't get renewed, but I sure know a lot about Mr. Smith's.
If you know Sara, you know how important music is to her and she's devastated. I don't like it when my sweet girl is devastated.
Mr. Smith is hands down the best music educator I've ever been around. Well, maybe Judith Pritchett, my beloved high school chorus teacher is right up there with him, but he's damn good. He has a passion about the students. He has a passion about the music. He infuses the students with this same passion and the students love him.
Mr. Smith came to Chamblee High School and Dekalb County from a school in Gwinnett County. He had a fine job in Gwinnett County. But the other talented chorus teacher at Chamblee was so good he got a promotion. So in mid-September, they lured Mr. Smith away from his fine job and hired him to teach at Chamblee. And now he has no contract for next year. No fine job anymore. And I'm outraged.
Copied below is the email I just sent to the Dekalb County School Board, the Superintendent, the principal of Chamblee High School, WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. I had to work to tone it down.
To the Dekalb County School Board, Superintendent and the Administration of Chamblee Charter School,
The parents of choral students at Chamblee Charter High School have been informed that their incredibly talented chorus teacher, Greg Smith, has gotten the word that he will NOT be receiving a contract for next year. I think you have made a terrible mistake and I beg you to rethink this.
I’m outraged. I’d like to know what is going to happen to the choral program at Chamblee High School. Are you going to hire another teacher to take over? Are you going to displace another teacher and marginalize another school’s students? Are you going to just disband the program all together and probably lose smart, talented students as a result?
I’d like to know which of you on the School Board is going to explain to the talented, enthusiastic, upset students that budget issues have resulted in marginalizing their education.
I’d like to know how you could take a teacher from a secure job in another school district, AFTER the beginning of the school year, to replace a teacher who was good enough to get promoted, and then turn his life upside down by not renewing his contract. How could it be that the notification of this didn’t happen early enough for Mr. Smith and other talented teachers to find other jobs so that they can continue to do what they love and are so good at, and in the process continue to take care of their families?
I’d like to know all of these things and I’m sure the other parents who have tried to reach out to you in the past few weeks would like to know as well.
I’d like to think that the administration at Chamblee Charter High School didn’t have a say in this decision – but if they had a chance to step up and didn’t, I’m more than disappointed.
I’d like to think that it matters to the School Board and Superintendent that the students in Dekalb County deserve talented, dedicated educators in all aspects of their education, regardless of how long a specific teacher has been in the system, but the recent contract issues across the county leaves me wondering. If it did matter, Mr. Smith would be making plans for another awesome year at Chamblee Charter High School rather than figuring out what his next step will be.
You must put students and teachers first. And it doesn’t seem as if this is the case.
The Dekalb County School System has suffered and will continue to suffer until someone in charge puts the students and educators first. I’d like to know when this is going to happen.
I make a promise to my own daughter and the other students in Dekalb County that I won't be silent any more. I don't know that it'll make a difference, but if we don't speak out we'll never know.