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Education & Career Dev.

Feb. 8 - Former SCCPSS Board of Ed member Dr. David Lerch announces candidacy for School Board President

Category: Education, Colleges & Career

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

February 8, 2018 – Workforce development is a leading topic in both local and statewide elections this year, as Georgia approaches full employment levels, and the state continues to struggle with 18% of adults deemed ‘illiterate.’ Governor Deal has been pushing school systems to address ‘failing schools,’ and the Georgia Dept. of Education continues to push for the ability to take over underperforming schools.

Into that atmosphere, Dr. David K. Lerch has announced his candidacy for President of the Board of Education. Current Board President Jolene Byrne has announced that she will not seek re-election.

The business community is working aggressively to encourage area schools to improve the region’s future workforce, and those fighting crime want fewer students dropping out of high school, which often leads to a life of poverty and sometimes criminal activity.  The statistics on the dropout rate of those incarcerated is reported to be  

Savannah and Chatham County have a long list of what the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) calculates are ‘Turnaround Eligible Schools,’ often referred to as ‘failing schools.’  And, Lerch adds that of the local system’s 68 schools, only eight schools have been graded an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ school by the Georgia Dept. of Education.

Lerch has both worked for the Dept. of Education, and has been a professional consultant to public school districts across the U.S. for many years.  He was previously elected to the SCCPSS Board Education representing District 4, from 2001 – 2005. 

The Governor’s office releases a three-year average ‘College and Career Ready Performance Index’ (CCRPI) score that lists schools in the bottom five percent of the state, excluding non-traditional schools and state special schools. This list replaces the chronically failing schools list that GOSA published in prior years.  The revised list issued in Nov. 2017 has nine schools in the SCCPSS system listed.

Lerch, who helped implement magnet schools in Savannah three decades ago, is a national education consultant specializing in magnet schools.  In 1987, he moved to Savannah to help set up the original magnets for the Savannah-Chatham County School District. Now, he works with school systems throughout the United States on magnet programs, grant writing and educational reform.  But, he points out that how the SCCPSS Board of Education is currently approaching its magnet school program is different from the approach of many other public systems in the U.S.

He has served as a consultant to over 80 public school systems in 25 states, was a high school math teacher, a school principal., and a federal program administrator with the U.S. Department of Education.  Lerch holds a Business Administration degree from the University of Richmond, a Masters of School Administration from the University of Virginia and a Doctor of Education from the Virginia Polytechnic and State University.

 “My experiences and training have given me both the knowledge and skills needed to lead our school board away from a contentious relationship into to one that is united if we are to improve our school system” said Lerch.  “Our board needs to work together with Superintendent Levett as a team if our children are to be educated well enough to meet the challenges of our very complex society.”

He points out that Georgia gives a letter grade to the schools. “Of our system’s 68 schools, only eight schools in our district has an “A” or a “B” grade. The rest are “C”, “D” or “F.”  We need more schools in the “B” and “A” category, and following the state standards.  The schools are graded, as well as the students,” he explains.

His solutions?  Focus on retraining teachers, and work with the Georgia university system to better prepare those going into teaching are two places he would begin, if elected.

“It starts with communication between the school system and the universities that are preparing the teachers that SCCPSS hires, 70% of whom are coming from Georgia colleges and universities.  We need to sit down and work with ways to improve their training so that they are prepared to work with the problems that the schools have,” he said, in an interview today.

Second, he wants “to start identifying training people who can come in, to work with teachers in the classroom to help them better address the problems the kids bring into the classroom.  The good principals push the bad teachers out of their schools. Then you start a conflict.  What you need to do is train them while in the classroom, not after school, not in the summers when people want to go home. You work with them in ways to improve their performance.”

Teachers want to be re-trained, want to solve the problems, he believes, and he states, “There are schools that are doing much better by giving the appropriate training,” adding “It’s not right that, ‘We don’t’ have the money to do it.”

Dr. Lerch and his family have lived in Savannah for more than 30 years.  During that time, he not only served as school board member, but also on the board member for Magnet Schools of America, the National Association of Magnet School Development and the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) organization in Savannah.  

“I'm glad David has decided to run," said George Bowen, who was the district’s Interim Superintendent in 2005.  “We are privileged that someone of David's background and caliber is willing to fulfill this important role for our school system.  I know he will play a key role in coordinating the efforts of the superintendent and board to improve our struggling school system.”

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