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UPDATE: Museum School Supporters Rally to Save Avondale Estates Charter

Parents, teachers and students protest a state supreme court ruling that could close their school.

As Patch reported Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia struck down the act that created state commissioned charter schools, ruling them unconstitutional.

The ruling affects thousands of children in the state, including which could be forced to close if a solution is not found.

"Our No. 1 priority today is to let our voices be heard," said Katherine Kelbaugh, principal of The Museum School. "Our students, staff, teachers and current and future parents, and our community are here supporting us."

In addition to the Museum School, other affected charter schools gathered outside the Capitol on Tuesday morning to ask for state support for their institutions. The Georgia Charter Schools Association and government officials also spoke outside the Gold Dome.

"The fight has only just begun," said Rep. Jan Jones, speaker pro tem of the Georgia House of Representatives. "One size [education] doesn't fit everyone."

Tony Roberts, president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said there's government support that could help the schools that are already open, stay open.

"I can't see the state turning their backs on these schools," Roberts said, in an interview just before the rally. "If we need a constitutional amendment, as early as November, 2012, we will get it. The constitution was written when there was no such thing as a charter school. The law will have to chage to reflect realities."

The Museum School in Avondale opened last fall and has already raised more than $300,000 toward its development goal. The school also has a kindergarten wait list of students hoping to get in.

Avondale Estates Mayor Ed Rieker, who attended the rally, said the city and surrounding communities support the school and said keeping it open is a "priority."

"There are enough people that have come together to support the school," Rieker said, "Closing is not going to be an option."

Kelbaugh added, "We are absolutely confident we will be serving students this fall. We will do whatever we need to do to keep our school growing and thriving."

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a 20-member panel to look at how public schools are funded in the state. Serving on the panel will be lawmakers and State School Superintendent John Barge and Scott Austenson, chief operating officer of the Georgia Department of Education. The panel will make recommendations by September, 2012.

Other charter schools are petitioning their local school districts, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It's also a potential option for The Museum School, though it's unclear if they, too, have made a request, in their case, to DeKalb County.

Bob Lamb May 17, 2011 at 06:03 PM
What a shortsignted and uninformed action the Georgia Supreme Court has taken. I hope you can fight it successfully to as to protect and continue your school. Bob Lamb
Grace Lee May 17, 2011 at 07:40 PM
It would be wonderful if the same kind of community support and spirit could be shown for Avondale Elementary. As a school choice parent, I have chosen to educate my child at Avondale Elementary in part due to the IB program that is offered as well as the tremendous love and support that the teachers and staff provide to my son. The school has tremendous potential and I can't wait to see what 2011-2012 has in store. I do hate to hear about the problems facing the charter schools. Any thing that takes away from a child's learning experience and threatens the foundation of knowledge is a horrible thing. I hope that the matter can be handled quickly, that the right outcome can be reached, and that ALL children can have access to the type of education that we as parents see fit. As a side note, City of Avondale Estates, please, please, please do not forget Avondale Elementary. The children at our school need your support as well.
Nick Purdy May 17, 2011 at 10:04 PM
To Grace Lee - there are others that can give you much more detail, but Avondale Elementary was offered tremendous and unprecedented community support from the Avondale Education Association for years prior t The Museum School's founding. The Museum School came into existence precisely because the leadership in place at Avondale Elementary refused to work proactively to improve the school.
Tom Brooks May 17, 2011 at 11:45 PM
It is DeKalb County's School Board that is failing the children of DeKalb, succeeding in blaming everyone and always behind the curve. Forrest Hills Elementary was renovated then closed. The new Avondale Middle was built and is scheduled to close. Avondale Elementary has suffered from a lack of vision and oversight. When the parents tried to form the public Museum Charter School they were rebuffed by the School Board. As grades and classes are added to the public Museum School children currently attending other schools will migrate to the Museum School as parents realize that the larger system is failing their children. The latest clown act has been the School Board's inability to deal with overt criminal activity within the administration they oversee. Who was watching the store? Who knew what and when did they know it? The system is in crisis and anything that can be done to improve it should be tried including public Charter Schools It is regrettable that many good and effective teachers and their principals try to educate DeKalb's children under such dysfunction. How does the DeKalb County School System compare with the Decatur City System or Gwinnett County's System? This is not a conflict between schools but a conflict between a non-functioning DeKalb County School Board and the children of DeKalb County regardless of which public school they attend. The real story here is the 40+ year decline of the DeKalb County School System.
Grace Lee May 18, 2011 at 01:04 AM
To Nick Purdy- It may be because my child is new to Avondale Elementary that I lack the information regarding any previous attempts however many years ago to envelope the school with the type of community support that the Museum School has successfully achieved. That being said, the things that I have witnessed over the the past year regarding Avondale Elementary is that there are parents there who are willing and ready to move the school forward in a progressive manner. Many parents of Avondale students could easily afford to send their children to some of the top dollar private schools, but have made the choice to stay and make the school better from within. I had heard the rumors that several years ago the community was shut out by the school administration. I believe that you won't find that to be the case now. Avondale Elementary will be actively seeking community partners for the 2011-2012. That being said, I don't feel like there should be competition between the Museum School and Avondale. I believe that both schools can coexist successfully educate our children.Perhaps even collaborate on an event if scheduling allows. After all, the children and their futures are what is most important. I'm a firm believer in school choice...whether it be public/private/charter, etc. I hope that as the 2011-2012 begins this fall, the community will open arms to Avondale Elementary once again.

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