CSD District Dispatch

News from around CSD: April 23, 2021 edition

The City Schools of Decatur District Dispatch provides parents, students, staff, and community members with the latest news from around the district each month. To view a mobile-friendly version of this newsletter, please visit https://www.smore.com/51qxb.

Table of Contents

  • A Message From Dr. Fehrman
  • April 20 Board Meeting Highlights
  • Extra Mile Award Nomination
  • Wilson Center Updates
  • News From Our Partners

A Message From Dr. Fehrman

I am humbled by the opportunity that the Board has given me to serve as the interim superintendent for City Schools of Decatur. This past year has challenged our students, teachers, families, community, and school system beyond what we ever thought we had the capacity to endure. We navigated through a global pandemic, racial and political unrest, and significant cuts in state funding for education in the face of substantial COVID-related costs. I am grateful to have the chance to offer stability in this role for as long as I am called upon to do so. I am committed to being a leader who puts the well-being of our students first. We are focused on a strong finish to this school year and ensuring we are ready for the upcoming school year.


A little about me -- I grew up on a dairy farm north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My father immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1965 and met my mother at Northwestern University. I’m one of seven children and growing up on a farm embedded a strong work ethic that guides me to this day. I started my career in 2001, teaching 7th-grade social studies at Summerour Middle School in Gwinnett County. In 2005, I was promoted to assistant principal at Summerour. In 2009, I had the opportunity to open a new school, North Gwinnett Middle School, also as an assistant principal. In 2014, I became the principal of Bay Creek Middle school in Grayson before joining the City Schools of Decatur in 2018.


I want to thank our principals, teachers, and staff for their endless dedication and hard work to create high-quality virtual and in-person learning environments, foster meaningful connections with students, and keep equity at the forefront. Thanks also to our counselors and teachers for supporting our students’ significant social and emotional needs. 2020 and 2021 have been challenging years, and we are grateful to our staff for their hard work and dedication. I would like to say a special thank you to our:


  • nutrition workers for providing meals throughout the pandemic,
  • bus drivers for delivering meals and books and working modified routes,
  • operations staff for implementing mitigation strategies, including upgrading our HVAC systems,
  • custodians for following extensive protocols to keep our buildings safe, and
  • the IS Department for supporting virtual learning by distributing Chromebooks and supporting thousands of families.



We’re also thankful to the Finance Department for achieving an outstanding result on our annual independent financial audit and demonstrating transparency and fiscal discipline while planning a very challenging budget.


Even as we are focused on closing this year out successfully, we are working hard to set the stage for a successful start of the 2021-2022 school year – including ensuring that a robust summer intervention program is available for students. We are committed to providing students with five full days of in-person instruction next school year. Also, based on guidance from our mitigation team, we plan to follow the 3Ws: wearing masks, washing hands, and waiting (i.e., social distancing). We will cohort as much as possible and make use of rapid COVID testing. I am meeting with our mitigation committee to finalize details for next year, and we will share more information soon.


I am excited to join hands with you and take the next steps of this journey together.

April 20 Board Meeting Highlights

The recording for the April 20 Board Meeting can be found here.



Spotlight

Oakhurst Elementary shared a video highlighting the work of their equity team. The team has been busy on several projects, but their main project has been rewriting their Crew curriculum. In the spotlight, you will see a glimpse into their daily Crew meetings and hear from Equity team members, other Oakhurst staff, and most importantly, the students. Oakhurst is proud of their work and is looking forward to their future work.



Budget

The Board tentatively approved the FY22 budget. The tentative budget includes a step increase for all eligible staff and proposed cuts to some operational budgets to help offset the step increase and to help replenish the general reserve.


A step increase is a salary increase within the step increments of the salary range established for a salary schedule, such as an increase from step 1 to step 2 in a salary range. Upon approval of a step increase in the FY22 budget, all eligible staff will advance a step, and the increase associated with that step will be published in the salary schedule for each job category. Employees who have reached the maximum step for their salary schedule will not receive a salary increase.


Our teachers receive a salary based on verified experience and the highest valid in-field teaching certification on file in the Staff Support Department with Rule 160-5-2-.05 adopted by the Georgia Department of Education. Classified staff years of experience and steps are based on verified relevant work experience.


The Board has discussed the possibility of raising the millage rate throughout budget discussions. After careful consideration, the Board tentatively approved a millage rate of 21.00, an increase of 0.75 from the current rate and 1.25 lower than the rate proposed in earlier versions of the budget.


Click here to hear the budget discussion from the April 20 meeting. The discussion begins at 1:19:33.


The district has received over $4.7 million in CARES funds. Over $3 million of the funds have been allocated for salaries and benefits, and additional allocations are for summer school, intervention programs, and the Decatur Virtual Academy.


An email for frequently asked questions for the Governor’s bonuses was sent out to all employees. The bonuses are scheduled to go out to eligible employees by the end of April.


The Tentative FY22 Budget is posted on the district’s website at https://www.csdecatur.net/finance. There will be a public budget hearing on May 11 at 6:15 p.m. prior to the 6:30 regular scheduled board meeting. The hearing will be held virtually. Please visit the district's announcement section on the website at https://www.csdecatur.net for instructions on joining the hearing and meeting.


The Board will vote on the final budget and the tentative property tax millage rate on May 11. Three Taxpayer Bill of Rights hearings on the millage rate are scheduled for June 8 at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and July 13 at 8 a.m. The final adoption of the Property Tax Millage Rate for FY2022 is scheduled for July 13.

Extra Mile Award Nomination

CSD Extra Mile Award

Hey students! Do you know a teacher or other employee who has gone the extra mile this year? Nominate them for the Extra Mile Award! The Extra Mile Award is an annual award that allows students to show their appreciation for the teachers or staff they feel go above and beyond what is expected of them.


Students (not parents) at any grade level can write an essay describing how their teacher (or staff member) goes the extra mile (parents can help younger children write the essay). The essays should be detailed and describe how the teacher or staff member goes above and beyond.


Submit your nominations using this link: https://forms.gle/SehMw6njfL9we3MZ9. The deadline for submissions is May 26.


Thank you to Decatur Education Foundation for sponsoring this award!


Questions? Contact cburnett@csdecatur.net or 404-371-3601

Wilson Center Updates

Superintendent's Office

We completed our accreditation review visit last month and received many accolades from the accreditation review team. The accreditation team shared how impressed they were with the crew mentality among our staff, families, students, and community members and the pride with which everyone spoke during the interviews. They also highlighted the evidence of a highly collaborative team among our teachers and staff. The team also highlighted how we have embedded equity as a core value in all that we do. And finally, they shared that they were impressed with the high level of care our staff show for our students.


The team noted two areas of growth related to collecting and analyzing data over time to inform our decisions and track progress and further develop our communication protocols.


The information gleaned from the accreditation process helped us enhance the plans outlined in our district improvement plan to use our strengths to support our growth areas. The next phase of our improvement planning process was developing a coherence lens to ensure that we focus on our vision and mission as we proceed through our improvement planning cycle. Please watch the short video to learn more about our coherence framework.


Video Link


Please mark your calendars for our input sessions. These sessions are open to parents, community members, staff, and students. We will share more information regarding these sessions in the coming days, along with a link to RSVP for the session.


District Improvement Feedback and Input Sessions

May 3 at 6:00 p.m.

May 12 at 6:00 p.m.



Coffee Chats

Also, in the coming weeks, Dr. Fehrman will partner with all district department leaders to host a round of coffee chats. We will meet in the courtyard between Wilson Center and Ebster Gym to hear directly from parents and community members. Please use this link to share any questions you have for each department. We will take the first part of the meeting to share responses to the questions submitted through this form and then open the session to live questions from the attendees. We will record each coffee chat and post the recordings for members of our community who cannot attend. We hope you stop by your favorite coffee shop and then walk over to join us for these sessions.


Tuesday, May 4 at 1:00 p.m. - Curriculum and Special Education

Wednesday, May 5 at 10:00 a.m. - Communications

Thursday, May 6 at 10:00 a.m. - Equity and Student Support

Tuesday, May 11 at 10:00 a.m. - Information Services

Tuesday, May 11 at 11:15 a.m. - Finance and Staff Support

Thursday, May 13 at 9:45 a.m. - Operations

Curriculum and Instruction

K-5 ELA Adoption

The Curriculum & Instruction Team has an exciting update! Thank you to everyone who engaged with the digital resources and submitted input via the digital form.


ARC Core by American Reading Company has been selected as the core program for K-5 ELA!


Please watch this video to learn more about the results of the adoption process. Please peruse the digital resources that we shared during the adoption process as a great introduction to ARC Core.


Over the coming weeks, we will work with school teams to engage in introductory learning.


Summer School Update

This information went out from the schools the week of March 29. We are on track with the plans referenced in previous information. K-8 parents of students that have met the criteria will receive an invitation and registration information by Wednesday, April 28.


Summer Virtual Learning Boost

All K-12 students will have access to a virtual personalized learning pathway to boost their understanding of content and skills and get a jump start to preparing for the next grade level. These activities will be personalized virtual learning activities for students that connect to grade-level standards. Students will be expected to engage in the learning at least an hour a week. If your child would like to participate, please complete this form by May 14 to participate.


These activities will be made available in addition to the summer enrichment activities available on the Enrichment Website.


Decatur Virtual Academy Update

Reminder! The deadline to express your intent to attend Decatur Virtual Academy is this Sunday, April 25. If you plan for your child to continue virtual learning in the 2021-2022 school year, please complete this form.


Here is the link to the Decatur Virtual Academy Information Session held on April 14 and the previous communication sent on April 2.

Equity and Student Support

BIPOC Connection Sessions

Who’s invited?

This gathering is geared toward all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) members of the CSD community. Non-BIPOC individuals are welcome to attend and should be aware that most information will be provided through a racial equity lens.


What’s this about?

The Connection Session is a conversation between the BIPOC community, CSD's Equity Coordinator, and various invited guests, in which we discuss thoughts, interests, and concerns regarding City Schools of Decatur. Each session uses a racial equity lens - always exploring the question - "What does race have to do with this?"


These sessions may not always have the answers, but there will be a viable opportunity to explore perspectives and share thoughts.


When will this happen?

Meetings take place virtually on the third Monday of each month. Our next meeting will be

May 17 at 6 p.m. Announcements regarding the event and time/date updates will be posted in the District Dispatch and on the Equity Website.


Click the links below to learn more about these sessions.


Click here to view the flyer about the connection sessions.

Click here to view the meeting access information.


BinaxNOW COVID-19 Testing

As we continue to welcome more students to in-person learning, we are excited to announce that we are now partnering with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide voluntary COVID-19 testing for staff and students. This program uses Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests provided by the federal government. Our goal in providing voluntary COVID-19 testing is to rapidly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases and close contacts within the school community. Rapid antigen testing provides the district with an additional tool to utilize in conjunction with the mitigation and infection control measures currently in place.


Parents/guardians will have access to student consents through the Infinite Campus parent portal. The consent will be available in survey format. The survey will include a link to the full consent. Only students with a signed consent on record will be eligible for COVID-19 testing. Hard copies of the consent form will be available at your student’s school if needed. Tests will only be offered to in-person students and staff members.


For more information, go to https://www.csdecatur.net/covidtesting.

Staff Support

The ShareCare biometric screening is back!

State Health Benefit Plan of Georgia has announced the Be Well SHBP-sponsored screening event will be back on site this year. We are working on getting our dates and location confirmed. Watch your email for dates and registration instructions. You can find more information at https://bewellshbp.com/.

Information Services

Device safety

Last Friday, April 16, we sent an email and text to parents to alert you to the potential hazards of overheating Verizon hotspots. If you have a CSD-owned hotspot, we encourage you to review last week’s message. Hotspots can be returned to the Wilson Center M-F, 8:30-4:30. Individual schools are also working to ensure they can receive returned hotspots, and they will use their usual channels to provide additional information. Unfortunately, we have not yet received specific information from Verizon or the Georgia DOE (who provided the hotspots) on replacements, but we understand that a large order has been placed. We will keep you apprised of new information as soon as it becomes available.


Chromebook return

As the school year concludes, we want you to know that most students will need to return their CSD-owned Chromebooks to their current school. This is so we can ensure devices are updated, in working order, and available where necessary to support learning going into next school year. We are still developing logistics to address summertime exceptions to this collection, such as for students participating in summer intervention programs; more information will be shared as it is developed. We are also working on ways to address home access to technology for students going into next school year.


Annual report

We want to draw your attention to our annual report to the Board of Education last month, alongside our partners in the Operations department. More than just our KPIs and SLAs, we want to celebrate our fabulous team: Ramous Fields (ECLC), Demetrius Towns (CL + WE), Stephen Moore (OA), Mike Reynolds (GL + WP), Marcus Ray (FA), Derrick Burgess (TA), Chris Leonard (RMS), and Vu Nguyen (DHS) are the school-based technology specialists who provide exemplary student and staff service. Lisa Jones, Kiet Le, Harold Rall, and Jason Wade support the techs and manage major network and enterprise systems behind the scenes. Thank you, all, for your exemplary work.

Operations

Are you interested in joining our Wellness Action Team? See the graphic below for details.
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State and Federal Programs

Families of students with IEPs, please refer to the April CSD Special Education Flyer for important information regarding the IDEA Parent Survey, the GaDOE Application for Families of Children with Special Needs Reimbursement grant, and DEF Special Education Summer grants.


Comprehensive Local Education Agency Implementation Plan (CLIP) Stakeholder Input Meetings will be scheduled during the months of May and June. Our first meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, May 12, at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Please find our current CLIP documents linked here. The CLIP is an application that is submitted to the GaDOE in order for the district to receive federal funds to support programming for eligible students who require additional support from individualized support programs such as Title I, ESOL, and Special Education.


Research and Analytics

We are getting ready to administer the Georgia Milestones Assessment System (GMAS) and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. The US Department of Education (ED) approved Georgia’s waiver of several accountability requirements. ED did not waive or exempt any assessment for any students. All districts are expected to offer the opportunity for all students to take GMAS. We are using this requirement as an opportunity to collect achievement data on our K-2 students and 9th- and10th-grade students in math and reading, which is why we are choosing to give the MAP test to those students. Below is the Georgia Milestones schedule. Please see individual school communications for MAP schedules. The accountability waiver means there are no consequences this year for students who do not participate in testing.


Please contact Heidi Whatley at hwhatley@csdecatur.net if you have any questions about testing.


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News From Our Partners

City of Decatur

DYC Presents Carpool Cinema

The Decatur Youth Council is hosting a free outdoor movie activity at Decatur Legacy Park on Saturday, April 24. Admission begins at 7 p.m. Showtime is at dusk (around 8:20 p.m.) We will be showing Disney's Lilo & Stitch.


If you plan to attend the outdoor movie screening, be advised that:

  • You must view the movie from your vehicle. Walk-up viewing is not allowed at this activity to help us maintain a safe, socially distanced environment.

  • You must practice social distancing at all times if you exit the vehicle.

  • Parking spaces will be first come, first serve.

  • Portable restrooms will be available in a designated area of the park.

  • Concessions will not be available to purchase. Each ticket includes a snack bag for four with popcorn, water, and candy.

  • Consider picking up dinner from a local restaurant to enjoy while you wait for the movie to begin.


Tickets are free but availability is limited to the first 50 ticket holders. One ticket per vehicle. Tickets are available at https://www.freshtix.com/events/dyc-presents-carpool-cinema

Questions? Contact DYC staff liaison, Meredith Roark, at meredith.roark@decaturga.com.

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Decatur Education Foundation

It's that time of year again -- time to Step Up for Teachers! And what a year it's been. Show your favorite teacher just how much you appreciate their hard work during this unprecedented school year with a loving tribute. Just go to www.stepupforteachers.com, make a $25 donation and leave your tribute. We'll notify the honored teacher or CSD staff member and deliver a "We Step Up for Teachers" yard sign to your door in the coming weeks. If you’d like to leave a tribute but can’t make a gift at this time, you can email your tribute to info@decatureducationfoundation.org. The Step Up campaign supports our teachers in the classroom through Teacher Innovation Grants awarded every fall. Let's show them some love! To see all of the wonderful tributes, you can visit decatureducationfoundation.org/tributes-2021.


As a special gift from DEF to our DHS seniors, we are giving every member of the senior class of 2021 a “Congratulations Class of 2021” yard sign! It’s a little something to brighten a lackluster final year of high school. Details about sign pick-up are coming soon.



Our schools have been closed for most of the school year, but our CSD teachers and staff have continued to work tirelessly to support our students. Have you witnessed a teacher or staff person who has shown compassion for a student during a time of great need or crisis? Every year, DEF recognizes a CSD employee who has shown extraordinary compassion to help a student in crisis through The Clarence Strickland Make a Difference Award. Nominations for this award are accepted from community members or CSD staff and can be completed by filling out this form: https://forms.gle/YiF1pANPKnMfm26b6. Nominations must be received by May 26, 2021, and award(s) will be presented at the teacher’s Opening Day event in July.