Erika Harris (left) and Allegra Johnson are the leaders of Georgians for Local Area School Systems (GLASS)
Erika Harris (left) and Allegra Johnson are the leaders of Georgians for Local Area School Systems (GLASS)

Ten parents gathered over coffee in a Dunwoody restaurant one morning this week to start putting together a lobbying campaign they hope will foster new Georgia school systems.

The group, organized by Erika Harris and Allegra Johnson of Dunwoody, hopes to convince the state Legislature to approve HR 486, a proposal to amend the state Constitution to allow new systems to be set up in cities created since 2005 and cities adjacent to them.

“We’re still in a 1945 school system,” Johnson told the group gathered at Café Intermezzo in Dunwoody on Dec. 9. “We need to bring it up to a new century.”

Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) last year introduced the legislation that would allow Dunwoody and other cities created since 2005, such as Sandy Springs and Brookhaven, and cities adjacent to the “new cities” to organize new school systems or to join other cities to organize new school systems. If approved, the bill would allow creation of new systems in 16 cities, including Atlanta, said Page Olson, Taylor’s chief of staff.

Dunwoody parent Tom Lambert said he attended the Dec. 9 meeting because he thought passing HR 486 would be “important for the local community and the state.”

“There is nothing more important for the community than education and it’s not working right now,” he said. “This is the first step. I believe a local school system that’s more responsive provides for greater opportunities for the community.”

When a recent study determined that a Dunwoody school system was financially possible, Harris and Johnson launched a new advocacy group to push for the legislation.  Leaders of the advocacy group, called Georgians for Local Area School Systems, or GLASS, want to organize parents in several communities to push for passage of the new law.

“This is an important starting point,” Harris said.

GLASS will raise money and organize parents to attend legislative meetings to push for approval of the proposal, Harris and Johnson told members of the board of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association during their Dec. 1 meeting. “We need to have volunteers ready to go to the Capitol,” Johnson said. “They need to see the support is there.”

Harris and Johnson said they hoped parents in nearby cities also would join efforts to promote the legislation. They planned to hold organizational meetings in Sandy Springs and Brookhaven after the one in Dunwoody. “This is not just a Dunwoody issue,” Johnson said. “This is for the entire state.”

Johnson said she had expected more people to attend the Dec. 9 meeting. She said the group’s Facebook page has recorded about 160 “likes” so far.

Shawn Keefe or Brookhaven, president of the Ashford Park Education Foundation, said he thought parents in his community would help push for the legislation. “I think if we do a proper job of educating the parents of Brookhaven, they’ll be supportive,” he said.

GLASS representatives also planned to meet with supporters after a community gathering scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 15 by Dunwoody Parents Concerned About Quality Education, the nonprofit that commissioned the school feasibility study. Dunwoody City Council contributed money to pay for the study.

Dunwoody Parents Concerned plans to publicly present the findings of the school system feasibility study during the Dec. 15 meeting at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Dunwoody. Johnson had headed the Dunwoody Parents Concerned group, but resigned to start GLASS. Former Dunwoody City Councilman Robert Wittenstein succeeded her as president.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.