Decatur School Board Candidate Peg Bumgardner thinks Decatur schools need to improve communication, improve parental trust of teachers and staff, and thinks the board might need to raise taxes if the SPLOST referendum does not pass.
Bumgardner's many volunteer jobs include directing Druid Hills Youth Sports and chairing the Renfroe Middle School Leadership Team. She was the 2008 Volunteer of the Year at Glennwood.
A small business financial consultant, Bumgardner graduated as Salutatorian of Walker High School in DeKalb County in 1977, beginning her post-secondary education as a high school senior, completing a year at DeKalb Community College from 1976-1977. She transferred to Clayton Junior College the fall of 1977 with a focus on Math and Fine Arts.
Below, Bumgardner lists her experience and answers Patch's questions.
I have worked in upper management for industries such as retail, consulting, and manufacturing for more than 15 years. During these years, employers supported me through mentorship programs and upper executive skills training. Currently, I am a small business financial consultant working in product research and development, advertising, computer programming, manufacturing, physical fitness, and home construction industries. Each business requires me to become knowledgeable in their field, which demands varied decision-making processes. A few of the companies I currently work for are Big Bang, Inc.; Sullivan Homes Inc; Teknas Inc.; About Movement; Water Vendors by Us; and Urban Lush 4 Kids.
Children in the system: I have a son in the 9th grade, attending Decatur High School.
Volunteer and community positions
- Executive Board Treasurer, Clairemont PTA
- Transition Team Member, Clairemont Elementary
- Treasurer and Volunteer, Holiday Marketplace, Clairemont Elementary
- Parent Classroom Support Assistant, Clairemont Elementary
- Executive Board Secretary, Glennwood 4/5 Academy PTO
- 2008 Volunteer of the Year, Glennwood 4/5 Academy
- Chair, Tybee Island Fundraising and Legacy Initiative, Glennwood Academy
- Chair, Pumpkin Patch Fundraising, Glennwood 4/5 Academy
- Teacher Assistant, Hand Chimes Exploration, Glennwood 4/5 Academy
- Executive Board Treasurer, Renfroe Middle School PTA
- Chair, Renfroe Middle School, School Leadership Team, 3 year term
- Renfroe Representative, System Charter Leadership Team, City Schools of Decatur
- Materials Coordinator, 6th grade Aqua Vita IB Unit, Renfroe Middle School
- Guest Speaker, Moms and Muffins 2010, Renfroe Middle School
- Parent rep, Reconfiguration Committee Part II, City Schools of Decatur
- SLT Rep, District Budget Committee, City Schools of Decatur
- SLT Rep, Strategic Planning Team, City Schools of Decatur
- Team Mom, Druid Hills Youth Sports
- League Director, Druid Hills Youth Sports
- Chair, Pitch Count Research and Education Initiative, Druid Hills Youth Sports
- President & Vice President, Druid Hills Youth Sports
- 2009 Volunteer of the Year, Druid Hills Youth Sports
- Teacher Assistant, BEGIN Program, Center for the Visually Impaired
- Choir Assistant, Carol Choir, Oakhurst Baptist Church
- Co-Set Designer & Director, Production A Child Like This, Oakhurst Baptist Church
- Meals Volunteer, Oakhurst Recovery Program, 11 years
- Author Venue Volunteer, AJC Decatur Book Festival
- Artist, Artwork donations to Holiday Marketplace, Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes and the Georgia Urban Forest Council ArborJam
Serving on the Renfroe Middle School Leadership Team (SLT) as an elected parent for the last 3 years has provided experience in understanding the daily business of school; the administrative process at the school level; the data used to develop School Improvement Plans for continued student success; budget implementation; and the inclusion of ideas, experiences and opinions of all members of the SLT.
As the chair of the SLT for 2 years, I have gained the necessary tools to develop agendas, organize and review support documents, and run successful meetings. Serving on the System Charter Leadership Team, representing Renfroe, has provided further experience in understanding system budgets, the strategic planning process, and the policy making process at the district level, as it pertains to the role of a school board member.
1. What do you think are the biggest issues or obstacles that the Decatur School System faces in the next four years, and how do you think the school system should handle these?
The three things that can be improved are communicating the impact of our educational initiatives to our internal and external stakeholders; the community's trust of our teachers and staff as professional educational resources; and the need for proactive and creative approaches to funding, due to the continuing decrease in state support.
To improve communication, I will encourage and support the superintendent and board members to be more visible in the schools and at SLT meetings. I will encourage the implementation of new tools as a way to link the community with system presentations, news, and recognitions. City Schools of Decatur must continue to find ways to provide information in easily accessible formats and mediums. Currently eBoard Solutions is the tool of choice. The system needs to develop eBoard video tutorials for the community at-large that explain clearly how to navigate this platform.
To develop trust and respect, City Schools of Decatur should consider Professional Learning Communities that consist not only of teachers, but also of a broader community that includes administrators, parents, City Schools of Decatur and community members. This can help to align everyone’s interests and expertise with the system and school’s vision and goals. These cross-role communities can provide opportunities for collaboration, idea sharing, and improving the quality of relational dynamics.
City Schools of Decatur must face two important facts when it comes to funding. First, state funds are very likely to continue to decrease. Second, we cannot continue to support the school system on the backs of residential taxpayers. New York City has established the Fund for Public Schools. It works to attract private investment in school reform and to encourage greater involvement of all citizens in the education of children. This includes working to secure critical funding for system-wide education reform initiatives; facilitating strategic public-private partnerships; managing a targeted set of programs to support city schools; and building citywide public awareness. The City of Decatur, City Schools of Decatur, and the Decatur Education Foundation should examine how this example of private support might assist with training school leaders. This model might also help enhance local funding for our nationally recognized early learning program and our World Language program which could include a Mandarin Chinese component that more and more students are asking for.
2. The school system is growing and the system appears ready to reopen Westchester, closed by a board that thought enrollment was declining and in an extremely controversial decision. How could the system’s projections have been so wrong and what do you propose to do as a board member to prevent such mistakes? Do you support reopening Westchester as an elementary school?
Decisions with respect to future enrollments were based on some assumptions being true and some trend data holding true. Fast forward, the analysis has proven false. No one can promise that Assumption Analysis or Trend Analysis will be 100% accurate. I will be prepared to dig deeper into data and question what is represented. Yes, I support Westchester being reopened.
3. If Westchester is converted back into a school, administrative offices must relocate. Would you support a proposal to construct new offices, or do you think there are less expensive options available, such as leasing vacant office space in Decatur?
I support a less expensive option but not necessarily the long term leasing of a property. I'm a big supporter of keeping older buildings, renovating them and repurposing them.
4. Recently, the school board passed a new nepotism policy that will allow the school system, under certain conditions, to hire immediate family members of the superintendent and certain administrators. Many board members have relatives working at the school system. What do you think is an appropriate nepotism policy in the Decatur School System? Do you have any immediate family members who work for the Decatur School System or other local school systems?
I support the adoption of the stricter hiring policy where board approval is required. I also support investigating a Vendor policy. Having been in positions to hire or fire employees, I can say they are not easy jobs to do. I would like the opportunity to share my experiences as they may pertain to nepotism. I do not have any family members that work for the district or local school systems.
5. Where do you think Decatur’s schools need improvement? How would you push that improvement as a board member?
We should continue the shift from an industrial model of schooling to one that focuses on equipping students for a knowledge economy. We do this by providing students the ability to seek, synthesize and think critically about the volumes of information available to them, as well as simply acquiring knowledge.
Some ideas on how to do that:
- Engage: We engage through Project-Based Learning frameworks like Expeditionary Learning and International Baccalaureate where students go beyond the textbook to study complex topics based on real-world issues.
- Connect: We connect through Integrated Studies where students are able to reach across traditional disciplines and explore their relationships.
- Share: We share through Cooperative Learning where students learn the skills of collaborating, managing emotions, and resolving conflicts in groups.
- Expand: We expand through Comprehensive Assessments such as Measures of Academic Progress Assessment where data provides a detailed, continuous profile of student strengths and weaknesses.
When I was at the opening of the new Career Academy, I saw first hand the benefits that vocational education offers multiple pathways to success and emphasizes genuine learning, not just training, to help prepare young people for lifelong learning.
I will support initiatives that are in the best interest of the students served and that will continue to move our children to educational excellence and success.
6. The superintendent has cited difficulties with the system’s school bus transportation, and members of the community have criticized the bus system. What do you think the issues are and how would you propose solving them?
Having not ever had a bus rider, I can say the district has identified issues, and they are working on them. The top priority is making sure our children are transported to and from in a safe manner and in a safe environment. Changes have been outlined by staff who know more about the transportation field than I do. I trust they, and the district will continue to look at issues and provide solutions as needed.
7. Both of you have served on School Leadership Teams. Do you think these bodies are having an impact in the school system and why?
Absolutely. The SLTs have developed the Math Academy, a Decatur High School Vision, a new high school schedule that better supports teaching and learning, and Accelerated Math at Renfroe Middle School, to name just a few accomplishments. These SLT initiatives have helped move the schools and the district to a higher standard of supporting students.
8. The Decatur School System levies the state’s highest property tax millage. The economy is struggling and the state is signaling more cuts to education. Do you think the Decatur School System has been a responsible steward of public money? In which areas do you think the system can best afford to cut back spending?
The system has been a good steward of taxpayers' money. I will not say where cuts can be made until I have appropriate information to make that decision. Part of my job as a financial consultant is to look at ways companies can reduce cost or become more efficient. I look forward to reviewing spending, asking questions, sharing ideas, and making recommendations.
9. Do you endorse the SPLOST and why?
Yes, City Schools of Decatur needs capital funding to continue to maintain and upgrade our older buildings, maintain our new school, and provide safe learning environments for all children. We continue to need to support technology and look at reducing debt.
10. Under what circumstances would you vote to increase school property taxes?
If SPLOST does not pass, and after reviewing the system budget for cost savings, the board might need to increase taxes to continue supporting a system that focuses on what is in the best interest of all students. This action would also need to include being responsible to the taxpayers of Decatur and of the Decatur community at-large.
11. Why are you running for the Decatur School Board? What would make you a good school board member?
I am passionate about providing the best possible learning opportunities for all of our children. Because of this commitment, I want to continue to serve my community and the City Schools of Decatur in a leadership role by contributing my time and talents to help our students achieve educational excellence and grow into adults who are well-prepared to succeed not only locally or nationally, but as productive and fulfilled 21st century global citizens.
I have more than a decade of experience working on boards that require the following: asking tough questions; making difficult decisions; listening to the experiences and ideas of others; being willing to share his/her own experiences and ideas; being willing to establish common ground; being willing and able to compromise; being willing and able to support decisions once they are made; being committed to decisions that are the best for all involved; and fully understanding his/her role on a policy-making board. This is why I am the best to represent the taxpayers and all children of City Schools of Decatur.