APS – BOE Chair McDaniel on the Defensive Over a Host of Issues [Updated]

[Update – in the original post, I referred to “average” class sizes instead of the correct “maximum” class sizes. It has been corrected below. In addition, the reference to Mr. Tidwell  was presented as a direct quote from him – it was not and the quotation marks have been removed.]

APN’s Matthew Charles Cardinale reports in an article titled “APS Board Chair McDaniel Responds to Challengers” that Chairman of the Board of Education McDaniel:

… defended himself against criticisms from his opponents regarding their perception that he did not do enough to intervene in the ousting of the principal and top administrative staff at North Atlanta High School; that he did not support smaller class sizes; and that he is politically driven.

In addition, he spoke about his position on charter schools.

As to the NAHS leadership changes, as reported earlier (link) there is an ongoing APS internal investigation that should provide its finding in the near future.

Regarding the charge that he is “politically driven” and may be looking to run for a higher office in the future – as long as he is engaged in the current issues facing APS and is willing to make the tough decisions that will be required in the upcoming year – his future political aspirations are not really relevant.

[Per Cadinales article, McDaniel also responded to criticism regarding his actions on class sizes,]

As for Tidwell’s charges that McDaniel did not support smaller class sizes in the recent budget negotiations, McDaniel says that the charges are simply factually untrue. “It’s kind of silly… I advocated having enough teachers to have similar class sizes as last year.  It would be nice to have smaller class sizes,” McDaniel said.

His position today is consistent with his actions during the budget process – he “advocated for similar class sizes as last year”. He was not a strong proponent for reducing class sizes below last year’s levels and took no actions during the budget process to drive class sizes lower.

[McDaniel said] “It turned out we lowered it [average class sizes] slightly because we have 59 more core teachers than we did last year… 78 more teachers over what the District proposed.

McDaniel is correct – per APS CFO Burbridge, average class sizes did in fact decrease from 24.6 in FY13, however, the reduction was minimal and insufficient to reduce the requested average [maximum] class size waiver below +5 – the same level it was in FY13.

“Class size makes a difference, but class size is one of the reasons children don’t know how to read… The issue is, we’ve got a very challenging population, we have to work on our early education, we have to make sure they have an effective teacher,” McDaniel said. 

“Concern about class sizes was mostly about Buckhead,” McDaniel said.

I believe he is making the case that both effective teachers and class sizes are important. However, at no time during the budget discussions did I hear McDaniel offer up any proposals to improve teacher effectiveness. And as noted above, McDaniel did little to drive average class sizes down to lower than prior year thresholds.

In addition, McDaniel discussed his position on charter schools,

“Using charter schools for what they were originally designed for… innovation… I fully support– they feed into our thinking at APS,” McDaniel said. However, he said that some charter schools “have been formed as alternatives to the public schools as opposed to innovation,” adding that he has opposed several specific charter school proposals within APS. 

Some students have parents who can be engaged and get their children to charter schools. “Some children’s parents are just trying to get basic needs met – when you move to a charter system, that’s what gets left behind,” McDaniel said.  

Clearly McDaniel considers charter schools to be a source of innovation and a place that encourages parental involvement in the school. Unfortunately, as Superintendent Davis noted last year during the Drew Charter expansion debate, APS has not done a good job of learning from the strengths and positive outcomes from the existing charter schools.

At the same time, I am unclear what “basic needs” McDaniel believes “gets left behind” in a charter system that a non-charter school provides.

As the campaign continues, I am sure he will add additional clarity to the statement.

You can keep up to date on each BOE candidate and their positions chronicled at the BOE Candidates Positions & Links at the top of the page.

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