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.
Erroll B. Davis, Jr.