CSD District Dispatch

News from around CSD: February 12, 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/b7m63.

Table of Contents

  • Board of Education Information (Spotlight)

  • General CSD News (In-Person and Virtual Update, Budget, District Improvement Plan, Enhanced Support for Students, and New Equity Website)

  • District News from the Wilson School Support Center

  • School Counseling Week

  • School "Shout Outs"

  • Messages from our Partners

Board Meeting Information

Did you know all of the Board Meetings for this upcoming year are listed on the district's calendar, https://www.csdecatur.net/calendar? The next Board Meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 9, at 6:30 pm. Details can be found at the bottom of our home page under Announcements.

These monthly Board Meetings often occur on the second Tuesday of the month. Check this page https://www.csdecatur.net/boardmeetings for more details and the next meeting date. Also, the Board agenda can be found at www.csdecatur.net/board prior to each meeting. Previous Board Meetings can be viewed in our Board of Education Meeting Video Library at www.csdecatur.net/boardvideos.

The most recent Board Meeting held on February 9 can be viewed here.

Spotlight: College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC)

During Tuesday’s Board meeting, Sarah Garland, Director of College Height ECLC, and Dr. Karla Zisook, Instructional Coach for ECLC, presented an overview of College Heights’ equity work. To view this presentation, you can view the presentation here.

General CSD News

In-Person & Virtual Instructional Planning Update

RMS, DHS, and Wilson Center leaders have been working hard on plans for their next learning phase. At the Board meeting on Tuesday, February 9, Principal Lofstrand and Principal Wiseman presented plans and their timeline for implementation. Much like the PK-5 plans, these plans include both in-person and virtual options. We have opened the learning choice portal for families of students in grades 6 through 12 to select in-person or virtual learning.

For more details about the Renfroe Middle School opening, please visit https://www.csdecatur.net/domain/1745.

For more details about the Decatur High School opening, please visit https://www.csdecatur.net/Page/4507.

CSD Budget Highlights:

The district is in the process of building next year’s (Fiscal Year 2022) budget. The fourth budget presentation of the preliminary draft budget was presented at the Board of Education meeting on February 9. Some of the highlights of the budget presentations are as follows:

  • Legislative Priorities for current fiscal year (FY21)

    • At the beginning of the current year, the Governor cut the state budget by 10%, which equated to approximately $3.3 million. The Governor has now proposed legislation to restore 60% of the funds that were cut, which would equate to approximately $1.9 million going back to the general fund.

    • The Governor is recommending a $1,000 one-time bonus, which will be funded by the Governor’s Office and Georgia Department of Education, for all school-level staff members, including but not limited to bus drivers, clerical staff, principals, counselors, and school nutrition workers.

  • Legislative Priorities for next fiscal year (FY22)

    • The Governor also proposed that the 60% or $1.9 million in austerity cuts be restored to next year’s budget.

    • Senate Bill 59 is a new bill that will reduce charter system supplements by reducing earnings from each full-time equivalent student from 3.8% to 3%. This would reduce CSD’s state funding by approximately $127,000.

After restoring the 60% or $1.9 million to the current budget and reallocating over $1 million in COVID expenses to the federal government CARES grant, the projected ending fund balance for the current fiscal year is estimated at 9.6%, which is within the district’s targeted fund balance range.

In preparing for next year’s budget, several different scenarios have been presented, including the financial impact that COVID-19 and the Governor’s 10% state cut has had on the current budget and will have on next year’s budget. Additionally, the district is considering the financial impact of accepting tuition from non-resident students in a limited pilot program and implementing a tiered approach for the payment of tests such as AP and IB.

Please be on the lookout for a series of short videos from Dr. Dude to help interested stakeholders learn more about CSD finances. We hope these videos will give our community more clarity about the budgeting process and other financial topics.

District Improvement Plan Discussion

At the February Board Meeting, district leaders shared a framework for the 5-year district improvement plan. This plan sets lofty goals along with annual benchmarks, priority initiatives, and tiered professional learning. Furthermore, as we are in the midst of our accreditation review, we will use the information gleaned from our review to ensure we have incorporated any suggested improvements from that process in our improvement plan.

To see the presentation of the District Improvement Plan framework, please visit https://youtu.be/nr9MByW8RlA.

Starting in March, we will begin sharing additional details about this framework as well as engaging focus group discussions to gather feedback. We are excited about this process. Please stay tuned for more communication from the schools and district about the District Improvement Plan framework.

Enhanced Support For Students

During Tuesday’s Board meeting, Dr. Kristy Beam, the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, presented ideas and options for addressing the expected needs for enhanced support for our students who may need additional assistance. For an overview of these options, please view this flyer below.

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Equity Website

Check out our new Equity site!
Over the last few months, we have been working to create a new equity site. We are finally ready to roll it out to you, our community. We hope that it is easy to navigate and clearly communicates where we have been and where we hope to go as a district with our Equity work. To view this page, please visit https://equity.csdecatur.net. *Please note, we are still working on the Equity Dashboard and what is posted now is only a draft mockup of the information that will eventually be shared.

District News from the Wilson School Support Center

Registration, Communications, and Government Relations

Pre-K Registration Now Open!

Pre-K Registration for “New Families” to College Heights began on February 1, 2021. Children must be four (4) years of age on September 1, 2021, to be eligible. Parents/Guardian must complete an online application before submitting supporting documents to College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center located at 917 S. McDonough. Please visit the College Heights website or click here for more information. Applications are due by February 25. The lottery for Pre-K will be held on March 5.

Registration for K-12

K-12 registration for new CSD students for the 2021-2022 school year will begin on March 15. Please check our website for more information.

COVID Reminders

We are sharing a few reminders about how to responsibly quarantine, distance, and know the symptoms of COVID-19. We appreciate all of our community members adhering to these suggestions to keep our schools safe and all of us healthy. Below you will find at-a-glance flyers and a video on the following topics:

  • Responsible Quarantine Guidelines

  • CSD United

  • Know the symptoms

  • Reminders about Distancing, Isolation, and Quarantine (video)

For additional questions, more information, or our guidelines, please refer to the COVID FAQ, Dashboard, and COVID-19 Safety, Facilities, and Healthy Schools Manual or the other links below.




Our Safe School Plans Approved by DeKalb County Office of Emergency Management

We are so proud to have our Safe School Plans receive approval from the DeKalb County Office of Emergency Management. We are particularly proud of the following excerpt from this letter:

“We would like to commend the City of Decatur School System for the successful

and robust plans that you have compiled over the years. Implementation of these

plans will ultimately make our schools a safer place to learn and grow even

through times of disaster.”

Congratulations to our schools and Operations Department on their hard work and dedication to ensure our safety plans are updated and implemented with fidelity each year.

For the full letter, please view below.
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Curriculum and Instruction:

RMS African-American Read-In, Virtual Book Fair, and Author Talk/Book Club

As part of Black History Month, RMS is participating for the first time in the National Council of Teachers of English African-American Read-In. The AARI is the nation’s first and oldest event dedicated to diversity in literature. It was established in 1990 by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month. This initiative has reached more than 6 million participants around the world.

We are asking all students, staff, and families to read a book by a Black author. We have partnered with Brave and Kind to offer a virtual book fair from February 8th-February 14th. We have also invited Chrystal Giles, author of Take Back the Block, to share with our students virtually in a Live Stream on Wednesday, February 24th at 10 AM. We will provide details later on how to join the virtual author talk. Later that day, the Decatur Library will host a community virtual book club at 6 PM to discuss Take Back the Block.

Please click this link to purchase a signed copy of Take Back the Block from the bookstore, Brave and Kind. This is a special link, just this event. Please specify PORCH PICK UP, not shipping, please. Once books come in, you can come to the shop at 722 W. College Street during their normal porch pick up hours (Wed-Sat 12 - 4 PM).

If you have any questions, please contact Holly Lanford, RMS ELA Department Chair at hlanford@csdecatur.net.

Staff Support

Nurturing the Next Generation of Teachers

Teaching is a true labor of love, and never before has the teaching profession been more challenging. While embracing the “pandemic pivot,” teachers have been asked to become experts in various online tools, transform their practices to a digital format, create high-quality virtual learning experiences, and engage, motivate, and build relationships with students they’ve only seen through the computer screen. As the coordinator of university partnerships and student-teacher placements, there was one more thing I had to ask a few of our veteran teachers: Would you be willing to work with a student-teacher this year?

Teacher education programs rely on veteran educators to invite student-teachers into their classrooms to observe high-quality instruction, classroom routines, and procedures. Cooperating teachers provide support, identify strengths, coach through growth areas, share best practices, and answer questions. They celebrate the success of both students and student-teachers; they are cheerleaders.

I’m proud to say, with few exceptions, our teachers rose to the occasion, and almost 40 of our teachers agreed to serve as cooperating teachers during the pandemic!

Developing university partnerships and hosting a diverse group of pre-service educators are essential goals for our district. This year’s university students may be next year’s recruits - many of our faculty members began here as student-teachers. Taking on a student-teacher is hard work. Our teachers’ willingness to serve is greatly appreciated. Thank you to the cooperating teacher volunteers (past, present, and future) for investing your time, energy, and expertise in the next generation of educators!

Marcia Fowler
CSD Director of Professional Learning and Evaluation

Operations Department - Facilities, Maintenance, Nutrition, and Transportation

  • We completed the installation of the UV lights inside the special education classrooms. To find out more about these SpectraClean antimicrobial lights, visit https://youtu.be/xyrQUCtGCog.

  • KN95 masks were delivered to the School Nurse offices between January 15 and January 27. Over 1,580 of these masks were distributed to our in-person staff members and teachers, and our staff can ask for additional KN95s whenever they require more.

  • The Operations Department has created a COVID-19 Daily Mitigation Checklist. This checklist is a tool to validate and evaluate the mitigation process as quality assurance and confirm compliance. We will have building leaders, Principals, Assistants Principals, Directors, and Cabinet members checking from time to time to measure performance.

  • We have 99% completion of the security locks project in the school district.

  • We completed the installation of water leak detection sensors (IoT) in the school district to help us with water leak detection alerts, unusual activity, pressure, temperature changes, etc.

  • We are in the process of installing a new cooling tower over Westchester Elementary School.

Update from the Nutrition Department:

Menu Service Update

We have exciting news! Our Nutrition Department will allow siblings attending school in-person to take home extra meals for their siblings under the age of 18, beginning on February 22, 2021. The form for requesting this service can be found here https://forms.gle/iUCUfC2KyrSpjdkY7. This service is only available for siblings.

Quick Reminders:

  • If your child receives a meal from a school site, they may not pick-up meals at Decatur High School.

  • Also, we ask that parents requesting this service consider their student’s ability to transport the extra meals because our in-person students are our youngest learners.

  • Meal pick-up will continue for virtual students at our TakeOutSpot at Decatur High School on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10:30 am - 12:30 am.

Required Forms for Special Dietary Needs:

If your child is eating with us and requires vegetarian meals OR has a particular dietary need, please fill out this google form: https://forms.gle/eyo5veaaAN8iBczp6. In addition, parents of students with special dietary needs are required to return the completed form “Medical Statement for Accommodating Disabilities” to our Food and Nutrition Supervisor at sblack@csdecatur.net. Please note that a healthcare provider must fill out and sign this form.

If your student is requesting lactose- free milk, we must have the “CSD Milk Substitution Form”; completed by either a parent/guardian OR a healthcare provider.

Once parents of students with special dietary needs have completed the required online forms, please see the process for picking up their meals on this webpage.

Thank you for your patience as we work through new processes this school year.

Equity and Student Support

COVID-19 Dashboard Frequently Asked Questions:
We now have a COVID-19 FAQ page that answers some of the most frequently asked questions we receive. You can find that page here: https://www.csdecatur.net/covidfaq.
There you will learn the answers to questions such as:
    • How does the COVID dashboard work?

    • What PPE does the district and school provide for staff?

    • What are plans to continue the return to in-person learning?

    • And much more.

Be sure to check this page often as we plan to update it with answers to common questions as we receive them.

Updated COVID-19 manual:

We made several updates to the COVID-19 Safety, Facilities and Health Schools Manual (www.csdecatur.net/covidmanual) to reflect the CSPC’s recommendations, DPH guidance on quarantine times, as well as other changes. The updated version has now been posted on the district website.

COVID Testing for our schools
At Tuesday’s Board of Education Meeting, an adjustment to the budget was approved to include the purchase of COVID tests.

From the Board Agenda:

In order to provide for point-of-care testing of symptomatic students and staff in our school health clinics, we have explored various testing options. We have selected BinaxNOW COVID-19 AgCards to be procured from Abbott. The tests will be administered by school personnel and will provide results in 15 minutes. The minimum purchase is 10,000 tests at a rate of $5 per test. If we determine all of the tests are not needed for symptomatic testing, we will explore the possibility of using them for surveillance testing and/or partnering with another school district or agency to purchase some of the tests.

Click here to see Dr. Dude’s short video about these tests.

COVID-19 Rapid Tests

Happy School Counseling Week:

We want to send a special message of deep gratitude to all our School Counselors in honor of National School Counseling Week, which was celebrated last week. We also welcome our newest counselor at Renfroe, Michelle Yancy. Thank you so much to all our counselors for always being there for our students when they need support. We appreciate all you do for our students.

Since our counselors are always sharing their kindness with us, let us share some kindness with them. In the spirit of supporting each other, we encourage all of our community to send a message of gratitude to them directly. Be sure to share how much their work has meant to your students.

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School Shout Outs!

Each month, the District Dispatch features shoutouts from parents and students to our excellent teachers and staff at one of our schools. This month we are featuring Renfroe Middle School teachers and staff.

If you would like to shoutout your child’s teacher or a staff member, send an email to Sarah Jones at sjones1@csdecatur.net. Also, at the end of the school year, nominate your child’s teacher for the Extra Mile award. Keep an eye out for more information on how your student can nominate a teacher or staff member as we get closer to the end of the school year.

  • Shout out to Ms. Dana Jackson (Renfroe) from Jillian Sobon (6th)She goes out of her way to be funny, and she is so kind and always stays positive no matter what the situation is.

  • I wanted to give a big shout out to Mr. Kurt Collins who teaches Individuals and Societies at Renfroe for 6th grade. It's my favorite class to listen in on as his humor and presentation skills are STELLAR! I am constantly guffawing at his asides and my kids just love him as a teacher. He is like a correspondent on the Daily Show.

  • Shout Out to Dr. Guenthner at Renfroe MS for consistent communication about student work and progress.

  • Shout out to Ms. Kanne at a Renfroe MS for continuing my child’s passion for art and for creating space in her virtual classroom where students can connect.

  • I’m giving a giant shout out to Lisa Pierre. Too often in academics, we find it easy to thank our teachers when the kids are doing well…however it is the moments in which my 7th grader is currently struggling that Lisa Pierre’s true awesomeness shines. Thank you for being so proactive and ensuring all the kids in your class meet and exceed their potential.

  • Shout out to RMS Summer Clayton and Christopher Leonard. My daughter's acer chromebook died this morning and within an hour she had a school-issued dell chromebook in her hot little hands!

  • Ms. Rios found a new approach to online teaching and it's very very helpful. We watch videos in Spanish to help our comprehension, which is a fun way to learn. She knows what it's like to have anxiety about being on camera, so she only makes us be on camera if we really need to. And she came up with a system where we can put yellow or blue folders up for yes or no questions. She makes sure the google classroom classwork tab is super organized so that we can find everything we need.

  • Ms. Whitely started breaking up the lessons in a way where we all know what we're doing that day. She always makes sure each student knows what's going on. She breaks us up into groups, and most of us get to work with our friends. She provides opportunities for enrichment that anyone can opt into. She makes sure the google classroom classwork tab is super organized so that we can find everything we need and she has a website with a calendar so that we know what we're going to learn, and more.

  • Ms. Kraemer makes sure that everyone gets to play if they want to, and she pushes us to play in front of the class. She has a student teacher who teaches us about jazz. Sometimes she puts us into breakout rooms by instrument so that we can talk about stuff we're working on and answer each other's questions. She has us do flipgrid videos every week so that we get comfortable playing and having others watch and listen to us, and we still do pass-offs and work towards honor pins so that we're still challenged to keep learning. She makes fun challenges like the 100 day challenge where we have to practice every day for 100 days.

We received so many shoutouts from our parents and students that we could not include them all here! We have created a webpage dedicated to appreciating our wonderful teachers and staff. You can find the additional shoutouts on this page https://www.csdecatur.net/shoutouts.

Take Action Tuesdays!

Want to give a shoutout to a student doing great things in our community? Consider sending us an email so we can highlight them on our Take Action Tuesday facebook spotlight!

Take Action Tuesday is a new weekly spotlight where CSD spotlights our students for their good deeds in our community. #OurKids are truly making the world a better place in so many ways and each Tuesday we will salute one student for their fantastic work. We need your suggestions! Do you know a CSD student who is working to make the world a better place in small or big ways? Let us know! Complete this form (https://forms.gle/WJaPFJZ8ojTtNCVK8) and they may be highlighted next week! Please be sure to include a photo!

Messages from our Partners

From the City of Decatur

2020 Strategic Planning Input Nears Completion

From the hundreds of residents who participated in our in-person and then virtual Citizen Roundtables over the course of 2020, to the Virtual Forums collecting opinions and ideas of all types, to the more recent, topic-specific Decatur 202 sessions that drilled down on issues of mobility, housing, racial equity, and climate action, Decatur residents have been hard at work voicing their vision for the city’s next decade.

These front-end input opportunities for the 2020 Strategic Plan will be wrapping up soon, but it’s not too late to get your ideas on the table. Share any remaining thoughts online in our Virtual Forums, which can be accessed at http://bit.ly/300tKT6.

Calling All Decatur Youth. We want to hear from YOU!

The Strategic Plan will help guide the City in deciding what’s most important to Decatur residents like YOU in the next 10 years.

Visit https://decatur2030.com/resources/ and look for the Youth Input section to share your ideas by March 15, 2021. Choose your response type and email your ideas to childfriendlydecatur@gmail.com. If you drew a picture, please take a photo and email it to us.

Once input has been completed, recommendations will begin to emerge for public review and comment, so stay tuned for that as we move further into 2021.

From Safe Routes to School

February is Love My Bus Month!

You can celebrate Love My Bus Month by creating cards or telling your bus drivers how much you appreciate them! Look for more details coming soon on how to celebrate our bus drivers- including a fun video from Westchester's Bike Dudes and Media Specialist Brooke Nation! For more details about Love My Bus Month from our friends at Safe Routes to School and Be Active Decatur, visit https://beactivedecatur.com/2020/02/04/february-is-love-my-bus-month/.

Decatur Education Foundation News:

Load Up with New Books for Winter Break!

DEF is hosting a Covid-safe book sale at Legacy Park’s Cochran Building (the gym) just in time for Winter Break. There’s a large selection of gently used children’s books from toddler to high school at bargain prices! You can sign up for 20-minute shopping slots here.

The Tour Must Go On!

Due to Covid-19, DEF can’t host its annual Tour deCatur 5K and Fun Run in its usual in-person form. This year, we are offering a “Run Where You Are” 5K and Fun Run on the weekend of March 27th. 5K participants can register at www.tourdecatur.com, where you can also order an event shirt. We hope this event will encourage the community to go outside to celebrate our health and the onset of spring. For some participants, this year’s Tour could be a goal to achieve or a fun family activity, and for others, it might just be exciting to have something to put on the calendar! 5K participants can submit a photo of their tracked time, and race results will be posted on the race website and the DEF Facebook page in the week following the race.

The Joe’s Fund Challenge

Decatur Education Foundation and Decatur City Church are excited to announce they have joined forces to launch the Joe’s Fund Challenge! Decatur City Church’s Be Rich Campaign recently donated $25,000 to DEF’s Joe’s Fund, supporting our kids’ behavioral health. Joe’s Fund, initiated by the family of Joe Bodine after his death in 2016, has been instrumental in creating the Decatur Student Center at Decatur High and the recent expansion of services to Renfroe Middle School.

Together, DEF and Decatur City Church is challenging our community to help us raise an additional $25,000 to double the impact we can make collectively. Your contribution to Joe’s Fund today will help expand the behavioral health programming at the high school and middle school and allow us to offer behavioral health grants to every K-5 school. Early intervention can help arm our students with the coping skills they need to face future challenges. Help us help our kids. Gifts to Joe’s Fund will ensure that we can continue to react to address all of our kids’ wide and varied needs. To take part in the challenge, please visit www.decatureducationfoundation.org/joesfund. Together, we make a difference!

About the CSD District Dispatch

If you would like to submit news for the District Dispatch, please feel free to submit it here or by emailing Sarah Jones, Communications and PR specialist, at sjones1@csdecatur.net. Also we love photos! Please share your photos with us and we will share them with the district here and on CSD’s social media pages. You can also tag us in your photos once you've liked our page or you can use the hashtag #CSDdistrictdispatch.