School Board's proposed 'Miracle' sparks debate

The “Macon Miracle,” a new 174 step plan proposed by school board superintendant, Romain Dallemand, will change the face of public schools in Bibb County. Dallemand introduced the plan to the community and boards members on Feb. 3 and has since grown into a highly debated issue amongst local residents.

A few steps in the Macon Miracle include teaching Mandarin Chinese to all students K-12, instituting year-round school with longer school days and changing middle school to include fourth through seventh grades.

This comes as an answer to some staggering numbers in student performance. According to the Bibb County Board of Education’s website, during the 2010-2011 school year, approximately 500 students were expelled, 703 dropped out of school and the ninth grade cohort graduation rate was less than 50 percent.

The Macon Miracle is supposed to address these problems.

Many parents are concerned about the plan, while others support it. Dr. Eric Spears, Director of International Education at Mercer, who spoke with the Cluster as a concerned parent and Bibb County resident, said that the main issue in the beginning was communication.

“I think I need more information as a parent. I need more clarity,” said Spears.

One such communication problem was the belief that teachers would be laid off. In a blog post, however, Bibb County Superintendent Romain Dallemand said that layoffs were not part of the Macon Miracle.

“Because there are staffing needs each year when schools are closed we would be able to adjust staffing levels through attrition – a gradual process made possible as staff retire or leave the District for one reason or another,” said the blog. This process of attrition will simply not fill vacant spots teachers leave behind as they retire, or leave Bibb County Schools.

“It’s a huge plan, and there are parts of it that I think are good, and there are parts that I don’t know that I have a grounded opinion (on) yet,” said Spears, who has two elementary school children at the magnet school Alexander II.

As a parent of a daughter in third grade, Spears said he can’t imagine her being ready to go into middle school next year. That part of the plan concerns him most.

“I’ve learned this week that Alex II as a school will not change,” said Spears, explaining that more successful schools may not face the radical change awaiting other schools.

“That having been said, I’m still a Bibb County resident. I want to see the community rise together,” Spears said.

Spears is also in favor of the teaching of Mandarin in schools, so long as it is not at the expense of other important languages such as Spanish. He also approves of longer school days and a modified calendar, but there is still a need for more information.

“What’s happening now is that communication is occurring,” said Spears, mentioning Dallemand’s blog and a meeting the principal at Alexander II held for parents.

An event on Friday, Feb. 10 at the Macon Coliseum was designed more as an inspirational speech, said Spears, who went to the event hoping to learn more information about the Macon Miracle.

“I feel more informed than when I first read (about the Macon Miracle),” Spears said. The meeting with the principal of Alexander II, his own research and even the event on Feb. 10 combined to help him feel more informed.

 

“There’s a social justice issue here,” said Spears, “I want every kid to have a great education.”

The numbers from the 2010-2011 school year were disturbing to Spears, and reform is needed, he said. “We have so much potential here. I think collectively a plan will fall into place that works well.”