Kenneth Zeff joined the Fulton County School System in August as the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer. Mr. Zeff arrived from Los Angeles where he served as the Chief Operations Officer for Green Dot Public Schools. Green Dot Public Schools is an award winning charter management organization serving over 10,000 students in Los Angeles and New York. At Green Dot, Mr. Zeff led all aspects of operations and helped drive the conversion of several failed Los Angeles Unified schools to Green Dot charter conversion.
Mr. Zeff says that his vision is to “create a model within Fulton County Schools that can be replicated across the country.” He believes school systems are searching for ways to use existing resources to unleash innovative practices to better serve students. The charter system designation welcomes innovation by empowering schools to embrace strategies and tools to improve outcomes for their whole school community. The central office will provide tremendous support, along with appropriate levels of accountability, to accelerate teaching and learning in each classroom across the district.
Under his leadership, the Strategy and Innovation Division includes the Departments of Accountability, Strategic Project Management, Start-up Charter Management, Governance, and Grants. This team will work together to guide the transition to a charter system while supporting the implementation of the broader district wide strategic plan.
Before his time at Green Dot, Mr. Zeff was appointed as a Senior Consultant for Policy Development in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. In that role, he worked primarily on the Administration's blueprint for No Child Left Behind reauthorization. Mr. Zeff was also awarded a White House Fellowship which he spent at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Prior to his work in government, Mr. Zeff worked at San Diego City Schools as an administrator of the district’s preschool program and spent almost a decade in strategy consulting at Deloitte Consulting in Chicago.
As Fulton has recently become one of the largest charter systems in the country, Mr. Zeff’s experience and knowledge are a welcome addition to support the system’s goal of flexibility in the three main strategic focuses of people, instruction, and finance. “The opportunity to participate in this transformation is the reason I think we are all a part of this work,” he says.
Mr. Zeff, his wife and three children, are quickly embracing their new home in Fulton County.
Charter System Update
Arthur Mills, Fulton’s Director of Project Management, shared the following answers to questions concerning Fulton’s designation as a Charter System. Mr. Mills is available to visit your organization or group to share additional information regarding Fulton as a Charter System. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does it mean to become a charter system?
The charter system designation allows the school system to operate differently. For example, it allows new accountability and flexibility with regard to seat time, staffing, and teaching professionals. We will be able to change the trajectory of student achievement for all of our students.
How long will the Charter System be in effect?
The school system was granted a five year charter in May 2012. The contract will be up for renewal in 2017.
What does this mean for my school?
The charter system status allows new opportunities to engage the local school community with issues and solutions that are beneficial for students. Local school communities will be able to better meet the specific needs of their students.
What does it mean for students?
Learning will be more engaging, relevant, and exciting, and will better prepare students for their future.
What are school governance councils?
School governance councils will help to guide the progress of local schools by looking at student data, working with the principal, and driving student improvement. Governance councils are a key piece of the charter system process. Governance councils will consist of people who know the community and are willing to provide support. Councils will include ten people: three parents, two teachers, two school staff members (appointed by the principal), two community members, and the principal. Public elections will be held to choose the members of each school governance council. At the high school level, the council will also include two student leaders. Councils will meet frequently to review or give input on the strategic plan, the budget, and flexibility requests. Governance councils will work together to make recommendations for flexibility which will be reviewed by the central office and approved by the superintendent.
What is the timeline for implementation of the charter system?
Full implementation will take three years. There will be three cohort school groups. Total conversion will be complete by the 2014-2015 school year.
What are cohort schools?
Cohort schools are a group of schools which begin the transition process together. There are twenty schools in the first cohort which consists of schools from each academic level and Learning Community. The first year of implementation for these schools will consist mainly of planning and developing critical frameworks. During the fall, information sessions and initial development of the school governance council will begin. During winter months, schools will concentrate on training. In the spring, schools will be certified and equipped for the next phase of work. The second cohort will begin the process during the 2013-14 school year. The third cohort of remaining schools will begin the process during the 2014-2015 school year.
Stay tuned for information sessions in September. There will be four sessions scheduled – one per Learning Community.
How does this affect existing conversion or start-up charter schools?
Start-up charter schools are formed when a particular organization or group requests charter status. These schools are managed by independent charter management organizations and are therefore not affected by our charter system status. Conversion charter schools are those which have become charter schools because of the flexibility allowed through an approved contract with the school system. Conversion schools can either join the system charter, or remain under their current charter contract.
Are governance council bylaws similar to LSAC bylaws?
Governance councils will be decision-making bodies elected by those within their local communities. School governance councils will encourage engagement and help communities become more excited about learning. Local School Advisory Committees did not make decisions but were asked to provide input.
How soon will we see results from this change to charter system status?
During this current school year, parents and schools will see very little change as this first year of work consists of building the framework – the planning, the training, the School Governance Council. After certification is earned, Governance Councils may begin making requests for flexibility in the areas of people, instruction, and resources. During the next school year, requests for flexibility may be submitted for approval. Approved flexibility requests will be first implemented during the following school year, 2014-2015.
Additional information is available here, including the Charter System Framework summary and other documents.
A Chat with PTA Council Presidents
In the Fulton County School System, the North Fulton PTA Council of PTAs (NFC PTA) is co-chaired by Debbie Roth and Inge Robb. The NFC PTA Council represents 52 schools. The South Fulton PTA Council represents 48 schools and is chaired by Reverend Hulon Kemp. During a recent conversation, Council chairpersons discussed PTA and why it is still important today.
Inge Robb mentioned a quote from Superintendent Robert Avossa who said, “today’s PTA is not your mama’s PTA.” In the past, PTA members were known for being room monitors who baked cupcakes and planned great parties for children during the school year. While PTA members are still active in school classrooms, today they look at the big picture, partner with schools, and are legislatively involved. Of particular note is the successful “popsicle stick” campaign, which involved collecting popsicle sticks for each child seen by a local school nurse. The popsicle sticks were sent to legislators in order for them to understand the amount of assistance provided by school nurses. The campaign was launched because the school nurse program was in jeopardy of being discontinued or drastically reduced. Due to PTA intervention, the school nurse program continues in schools today.
Debbie Roth explained that PTA is the largest national parent advocacy group and has been responsible for supporting or initiating many educational enhancements to benefit children such as the kindergarten program, hot lunches, and as mentioned previously, the school nurse program. PTA supports children and is all about what is best for children. Because PTA is a national organization, there is accountability in the form of audits and other checks and balances to ensure funds are handled appropriately and that standards are followed. The national organization is a support mechanism for local organizations.
Rev. Kemp mentioned that PTA encourages parents to become involved in schools because, “the more knowledgeable parents are, the more involved they are.” PTA is a way for parents to know what is going on in their local school, as well as to learn about national initiatives that affect students.
Local Parent Teacher Associations benefit local schools by supporting strategic improvement plans and have contributed science labs to schools, as well as the Math Superstars program. Funds collected by PTA directly benefit the local school, other than a small percentage which is contributed to the national organization.
Locally and nationally, PTA supports improving academic excellence. PTA has been in existence for more than 100 years and has advocated for students while energizing parents through volunteerism and networking. Not only do parents demonstrate their support of education by joining PTA, there are additional members benefits including the eTrak program which allows parents to know where their children are at all times. This program is available at a substantial discount to PTA members. For additional national benefits, visit the PTA website.
Please join your local PTA to show your support for children, for education, and to help affect positive change in the lives of students throughout the Fulton County School System. For more information, contact your local school or Council Membership Representative Annie West at VPMembership@nfctpta.org.
New Online Resource
School systems use a variety of terms that are not always known by the general public. Many of these terms are abbreviations or acronyms and are used frequently. An online directory of a variety of such terms has been created and is now available. It is a work in progress as additional terms will be included as needed. Click here to access the directory of terms.
Faith Leader Contact Information
At the first Faith Summit in 2012, Superintendent Avossa invited faith leaders to connect with schools as mentors, tutors, and as an additional support system for enhanced student achievement. The second Faith Summit will occur during the first quarter of 2013. If you are a faith leader or if you know of faith leaders interested in learning more about partnering with schools, please send contact information to email@example.com.
Alert from the Nurse
Coordinator of Student Health Services Lynne Meadows, shares the following information regarding the West Nile virus, "we are experiencing record numbers of West Nile Virus cases this year throughout the United States. In fact, the Associated Press released a story this week and shared that per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - West Nile Virus cases are up 40 percent since last week and may rival the record years of 2002 and 2003." Adults are at highest risk for contracting West Nile. According to Fulton County Government and the CDC there are three steps to take to reduce risk: apply insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing using an EPA-registered repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus; mosquito proof your home by adding screens and draining standing water; and help your community by looking for possible mosquito breeding places. For more information, please call the Mosquito Hotline at 404-730-5296.
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