Letter from the Superintendent – February 2012

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February 1, 2012

Dear APS students, parents, employees and supporters,

Redistricting is never an easy or painless process, but it is something most urban school districts must periodically undertake to effectively manage educational resources and ensure continued student academic achievement.

APS is certainly due for a district-wide redistricting initiative, because the last time the system underwent this process was back in 2003. Today, the district has critically overcrowded schools in some areas and severely under-enrolled schools in other sections. This situation wastes resources and adversely impacts efficient operations and potentially student academic achievement.

The redistricting process began almost a year ago with focus groups held in all four APS regional areas, followed by a demographics survey that was posted on the district Web site (www.atlantapublicschools.us) and advertised throughout the city for parents and community members. Late last year, we posted generic redistricting scenarios that were developed by demographers as a starting point to provide parents and community members with something tangible upon which to base their reviews and input.

Community meetings were held late last year in the district’s four regional areas that drew overflow crowds of parents and community members. At these meetings, the demographers explained the process in detail and went over the generic scenarios, after which they recorded input on the scenarios from audience members. Some came in groups representing various neighborhood and school organizations, while others came as individuals representing only themselves and their children. Avenues for feedback were many — in person at the community meetings or through the demographic survey and other avenues on the district Web site. My own email saw substantial and substantive traffic.

A second round of redistricting community meetings was scheduled for late January and early February in all four APS regions. Prior to the meetings, revised redistricting scenarios were posted on the district Web site for parents and community members to review in advance of the second round of community meetings. Parent and community input from this second round of meetings will be incorporated into yet another series of revised redistricting scenarios that I will use in developing a proposed redistricting plan.

Earlier this year, I developed a set of guiding principles for how my redistricting decisions would be made and posted them on the district Web site. I grouped these principles in priority order. They include proposing school boundaries that will be functional for at least a decade; assigning students to schools as close as possible to their homes; keeping current feeder patterns intact as much as possible; and ensuring student safety and transportation efficiency. These priorities/principles may change based on input on the second set of scenarios.

In the spring timeframe, I will propose a redistricting plan to the Atlanta Board of Education that will be informed by both the public input we have received over the past year and the guiding principles I continue to develop. Parents and the community will again have the opportunity to weigh-in on the proposal I will present to the Board at their meetings.

As mentioned earlier, redistricting is never an easy or painless process. But we have made the entire initiative as transparent and inclusive as possible with parent and community input solicited and incorporated all along the way. In the end, a comprehensive redistricting plan will be approved and implemented, starting with the next school year, with the main objective being to continue to escalate student academic achievement within an efficient and cost-effective operational structure.

Sincerely

Erroll B. Davis, Jr.
Superintendent

One thought on “Letter from the Superintendent – February 2012

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  1. What worries me about this re-districting is that I remember a similar happening in the 70s or early 80s in the Morningside area. Many parents pulled the children out and sent them to private schools – some of this may have been racially inspired but not all of it. Many parents wanted their children to be able to walk to school and have neighborhood friends to play with. (There was a private school in the Morningside area at that time, by the way)

    On the other side I was a parent who choose to send my chiid to private school because I felt her own needs would be better adressed in a school where she got extra help and small classes, and then, when we return to public school, we went outside our assigned school because we needed speech therapy which was not offered in our neighborhood high school. I am very familiar with driving many miles daily to take and pick a child from school. All the friends live many miles and it was a real planning project to arrange a visit.

    Why on earth would any planner try to split up the schools of Morningside, Inman and Grady. There is no logic to this. It certainly is not “going Green” – the older kids could ride bikes to Inman or Grady. Even with the school bus transporting the student to one of these three schools, there is such a saving on gas, which is getting more and more expensive.

    Continue on this road- the whole planning system, and I can see what happened in the 70s and 80 when more and more families moved to DeKalb and Gwinnett and East Cobb.

    And, by the way, I have no axe to grind. I have grandchildren who go to their neighborhood school where their mother teaches- first grade, fourth grade – even the middle school brother is right there in a separate building. Of course, this is inSouth Carolina.

    I certainly hope that these plans, as I understand them, do not come to pass.

    Linda C. DeMars

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