LIVE BLOG: SRT 2 Demographic Community Meeting at Parks Middle School – February 2, 2012

Tonight is the last of 4 community demographic meetings held this week in the Atlanta Public School District.  Tonight’s meeting is taking place at Price Middle School in SouthEast Atlanta.  Schools impacted tonight feed into South Atlanta High School and the New Schools of Carver.  There is a packed house here with over 500 in attendance in the main room and others in an overflow room.

6:40pm

Demographers:  The south and southwest sides of the city are stable.  Even with future redevelopment, the number of students will drop slightly over the next 10 years as families age. The next step is to take comments from these options to the superintendent, revise options and allow him to take over the work moving forward.  We will listen to your feedback tonight and study the written comments along with the comments from the last round of meetings.  We will consider that input to possibly refine the two options.  No major changes will be made before submitting our report.

View Options A and B with the background data here.

SRT2 has 16 schools excluding charters that are built to serve 12,750 students.  Current student enrollment at all grade levels is just below 8,400.  Enrollment is projected to drop by another 680 over the next 10 years.  5 schools have fewer than 400 students.

We found that it was impossible to follow all of the superintendent’s 21 guidelines, especially in SRT2.  Some of the relevent guidelines for SRT2 = Keep school feeders consistent from elementary through high schools.  Draw zones that can work for 10 years.  Just because we recommend a school for closure doesn’t mean that the superintendent will follow through.  He wanted to know where potential school closings could happen.

Key SRT 2 Issues: Elementary schools were built to serve many more students than now live in this area.  Demolition of public housing has reduced the number of students in the area – that trend is ending.  Our enrollment projections expect that some of these sites will redevelop in the future.  Many of the schools were located in/near these housing developments but now that they are gone the schools are not close to where children live.  elementary grades should stay about the same over the next 5 years then fall.  Middle and high school enrollment should stay about the same over the next 10 years.  Population of students in this SRT is about 1/2 of what it is in the others.  Nothing has been decided.  Nothing has been set in stone, no decisions have been made.  We are the consultants providing ideas to the superintendent for him to consider. (rumblings in the crowd)

Proposed SRT 2 school closings/zone changes:

  • Close Thomasville Heights – move students to Benteen
  • Close Capitol View – move students to Perkerson
  • Combine Cleveland Ave. and Humphries zones into one area (the choice of which school to keep open will be decided by APS)
  • Close Parks Middle School – move students to ML King and Sylvan MS.  The main difference between the 2 options for this SRT is in the way the middle and high school feeder zones are drawn.

Note:  Demographer is walking through the process of reading the maps with the crowd.

Note:  Highest number of children I’ve seen all week at this meeting.  Lots of entire families – moms, dads, kids, grandparents.  Spanish interpreters here and have been used at every meeting this week.

Demographer: When you look at the high school zone lines keep in mind that they match the elementary zone lines.  Children will go to elementary and middle together – won’t be split up. However they may be split up in high school.

Everyone in the community can fill out the feedback forms tonight or anytime before the 24th.  All schools will have copies of the feedback form OR you can go online HERE and give feedback now.  We did not look at education, race or income when we did this study.  Those are things that we were not asked to use during this study.

7:00pm

Q&A + Comments are about to begin.

Comment:  Parks Parent – You made a statement about having all of this data but can you count the students who go to Pace, Westminster and other private schools?
Demographer:  Yes, we count every student even those in our study.  We know where every child attends school.

Comment: Capitol View Parent – I am disappointed that APS didn’t exercise diversity when selecting the firms to do this work.  It stinks of class warfare.  All the experts say we need smaller class sizes to ge the results we need.  This really doesn’t make sense.  We’re not stupid, everyone can see how you’ve moved the westside out of Grady.  And if you (board members) don’t have the fortitude to right these wrongs we will make sure you are replaced (cheers).  The focus we should have here is not the numbers but how we better educate our kids.  I close with a quote from a great man,  what affects one directly affects us all indirectly.

Comment:  Grandparent from Pittsburgh – We have so many problems in our neighborhood and now you want to give us a school that’s being abandoned.  We have a new superintendent but what does that mean to us? We are waiting to see what this new superintendent will do but not at the price of you closing the schools in our community.  I’d like to say if we had more Dr. Battles (claps drowned out the rest of the statement)….that woman listens to us! (I recognize this parent, she volunteers often in the community at at Parkside ES….fantastic woman and advocate for children).

Comment:  Pittsburgh parent – We get a robo call saying now its time to talk.  We’ve been wanting to talk!  We get 3 minutes when we go down to the board meetings to talk and we get a response 3 months later.  What about Parks.  Nobody offered our children counseling.  I bet if we were in Buckhead someone would have gotten us counseling.  Our children are taking tests parents everyday since this scandal has happened.  Why? Why does my child have to take a test everyday? (Little boy, about 6, shouts hallelujah!)

Comment:  Pittsburgh Grandparent – You built the school 30 years ago (Parks) with no cafeteria and used the argument that the school didn’t have enough of a population.  You built us a school with no windows and we changed that.  One of the worst cheating scandals happened at Parks but you haven’t talked to us about whether our kids would be any better off going from Parks to King.  They will not be any better going from Parks to King! I don’t know why you would think I want to send my child to MLKing MS when I don’t know what that school has to offer! You (demographers) didn’t get the right information. We’re setting up charter schools everywhere and taking our kids out of the buildings then we say we want our children to have a good education.  I know when you save that money you won’t be spending it in my community you’ll be spending it somewhere else.  In Summerhill for example we got behind Dr. Hall and supported Build Small.  Then they came back and said the ground was environmentally contaminated and we just need to let Ralph McGill go. (I lost the rest of the comment). My daughter, we grew up in Pittsburgh…we sent her to MLK Middle when the school system had some system in MLK because it was a new school, then Southside.  My daughter is an assistant principal in Chicago.  You can’t tell me public schools don’t work.  The problem is that when we have a problem on the southside we don’t want to fix the problem and give our kids an opportunity.  We will do it on the northside but not on the southside and we should be mad as hell (crowd erupts).

I’m not talking about race, I’m talking about these young kids and they need an opportunity to lead and to become responsible citizens in this city and the only way to do it is to have a good education.  I’m telling you APS is giving you the wrong information.  If you shut Parks down it won’t be any different.  Only thing will change is that it will give the BOE more money to help people that they think are better than we are.

Comment: Price “High School” Alumni member – Will you clarify what the 21 variables are?  Growing up on this side of I20 I can remember Milton, Lakewood, Jones, Long, Fulton, Roosevelt, Smith and how when the “new thing” came how these schools were left abandoned and standing and still standing today!  I don’t know what kind of land or power grab is going on today.  There is a school to prison pipeline that has to be crushed and eliminated.  Here in ATL we can do a much more effective job in getting our kids educated.

Comment:  79 year old resident – The schools in SE Atlanta might not have as many children as in the NE but that’s because of the economy.  They pulled their kids out of private school and put them in public school.  In the SE part of town they moved.  Look at all the development, no matter what the economy is, where you’re gonna build homes and have children moving in and then you’re going to have to do like you did Cleveland Ave.

Note:  She would like in the future for the school closures and mergers to be listed on one sheet and passed out with the feedback forms.

Comment:  Humphries Parent – We have kids coming from everywhere just to come to our school.  Our school does not need to be combined.  Ya’ll need to go back and re-evaluate those lines that you drew.

Comment:  SRT3 Parent in support of Parks – We all know it was ground zero for the scandal and when I first visited I had low expectations.  But I was blown away by the climate and the culture of the school when I had a tour with the principal.  I observed a math class and there was a little boy who wasn’t focused on what was going on.  He was playing on a computer and I asked him “what are you doing” and he said “I finished my work already, I know what’s going on, I’m smart!”  You could see the pride and confidence.  The boards in the halls have pictures filled with projects.  The halls are alive with the children learning.  The bookshelves in the library are full.  Their media center was better than some of the media centers I’ve seen on the northside.  Parks should not be closed, give them the opportunity to continue their progress.

Comment:  SRT3 Parents speaking in support of Benteen – Benteen has been recently renovated and I ask that it is kept open and kept in the Jackson cluster.  Certain schools have been on the news lately but don’t use that as an excuse to close them down.  There are existing Title I Improvement Plans in place for many of the schools on this list.  Why don’t we work together to make this happen (big applause).

Note:  Speaker gives the history of Pittsburgh.  Wow – I didn’t know! You’ve got 34 acres there that are going to be developed along the beltline.  Says you see new cars in front of new houses.  To close Parks is to tell all of those kids that “your neighborhood doesn’t matter.” Member of the crowd shouts “Think about that!”

Note:  Last commenter was a Capitol View teacher upset about the fact that even though their school is making gains they are in trouble under these options.  She is very concerned about the distance the kids will go to school from home and how that will affect parental involvement.

7:49pm

Comment:  I’m really confused when I see you want to close Parks and put these kids at King, Sylvan and Price.  Do you know how far these schools are? What happens when the kids miss the bus?  When a child has to walk the distance they would walk from Mechanicsville to Sylvan – that’s impossible for child when you see on the news a child that was trying to walk one mile and a molester tried to pick her up.  With the Parks and cheating scandal they have been through enough.  These kids need some stability, some understanding and some help.

Comment:  Parks Middle Student – We can read and write just like kids in Buckhead! (big applause).  I exceed in every one of my classes! I represent Parks Middle School.

Comment:  Humphries Parent – When you talk about crunching numbers we understand you have housing development areas that close but you think they’ll be closed forever?  You want to take 30 kids and put them to one teacher?  When you have a smaller classroom, especially in ES, the teacher has more time to focus on each child because all children to not learn at the same pace.  You want to go by numbers? I thought it was about education.

Comment:  Capitol View Parent – Every school at Capitol View walks to school everyday.  Have you looked at the cost of transportation?  Widening the zone so we can meet the enrollment numbers?
Demographer:  We have not considered transportation issues at this time.  I don’t have the numbers (in fornt of me) on how many children are enrolled in Capitol View zone right now.  I don’t know how many students we need to move in to bring it to capacity, but when we look at the area there are more seats in the area than there are students.

Comment:  Capitol View Parent – Before you turn your information over to the board I expect you to disclose all of your information and methadologies used.  Our children’s lives depend on this.  What about special needs and their services when you move them to larger schools? Lets think about all of these things and the outcome of what could happen.

Note:  Parent questions closing Humphries when the school is not failing.

Note:  Some support data that  parents have asked for tonight –

8:19pm
Comment: Capitol View Grandparent – I am on the floor at 5:30 every morning to make sure my grandkids are up and out on time.  If you close Capitol View, we’re going to have to figure out a way to get to Perkerson.  We have great teachers that care about our students.  Everybody knows everybody that lives in that area.  It would be harder on me….I have to walk up 2 steep hills to get to Capitol View but I don’t mind because I know they have to get there some kind of way.  Our parents are informed and we don’t have many problems. Please, for my sake, let our school stay open.
Note: Acoustics are a little bit of a challenge. Voices discussing the issues are carrying and making it hard to hear the speaker.
Comment:  I’ve seen how you’ve closed some schools then built others new schools and it just doesn’t make sense to me to close a school that was just built when families are commited to their communities.  Then you have to think about the elderly who are raising these students and you have to think about transportation issues.  There are students who go to after school programs and I really think that you have not considered all the reasons not to close certain schools.  I see that parents and students have needs that are greater than these study’s.  I believe that quality of life is more important than numbers.
Note:  Speakers are still in line at the 3 microphones but most of the room has cleared out at this time.  Long night for families with small kids.
8:33pm
Comment:  Capitol View Parent – The room is thinning out a little bit but that’s because our parents walk to school and that means that many don’t drive so don’t think we’re not here for our school, some simply can’t get here/stay here.  I bet you none of your children or grandchildren are in the lines that are being redistricted.  My child is a straigt A student at Capitol View. You’re putting too much on the teachers.  Anything more than 20 students is more than a teacher can handle.  Its unfair to the teachers and the students.
Comment:  Former teacher – The middle school is the one enviornment that you don’t disturb.  The children of Parks are some of the resiliant I’ve ever met.  If some adults had been through what they’ve been through….there also has to be some way that you can go into the computer and see how the charter schools are impacting our neighborhoods.  It used to be white folks that would leave and go to charter schools now its black folks too (applause). I want you to look at charters inside of 285 to see how they are impacting our school
Note:  Demographers say that they explored a split feeder zone in this area, but even with closing a school there is plenty of space in the consolidated school
Comment:  Do you realize that when you close all these schools people have a reason not to send their kids to school (you make it harder for them to get there) and then you have an increased drop out rate.
Comment:  I have two daughters that go to Cleveleand, I was just there today and they don’t have room over there for anymore kids so I don’t know where you got your numbers from.
Comment: Why Parks and no other middle schools. Parks is at 80%. Sylvan is at 60%.
Demographer:  It was the smallest middle school in the entire area, not for anything educationally based.  We’ve actually learned alot about Parks tonight. When we zone students to Sylvan from Parks and MLK we looked at the line that splits Parks from Sylvan and King goes along a major line when you look at maps.
Commenter talks about the trickle down effect of closing a school. Loss of school = loss of residents = loss of city services and a downward spiral.
Comment: Are there any schools closing on the north side?
Demographer:  Those schools are over crowded .
Follow up:  Then why wouldn’t you bus the kids from the north side to the south side?
Demographer:  I don’t believe any parent would like their child to travel across the entire city to attend an elementary school.
Follow up:  I see some schools in the south east SRT3 that are being linked with schools in the north as opposed to those that are closer in the south.
Demographer:  We are looking at the priority of not going from a higher performing school to a lower performing school, and we’re not calling schools down here lower performing, but that’s the direction we are going…..
9:00pm
End of Live Blog

2 thoughts on “LIVE BLOG: SRT 2 Demographic Community Meeting at Parks Middle School – February 2, 2012

Add yours

  1. I am amazed at the comments and the attendance for these meetings. Are there some valid points, yes! But what we can not do is be upset and fight a fire while its blazing. These are items that should and would be addressed if these same families attended PTA meetings with the same tenacity and devotion. We need to be the change we want.

  2. I’ve read the live blogs from all four meetings and one thing is clear: Atlanta is a city full of hate. Just listen to the southside call the northside racist and vice-versa. Look at the East and West sides try to keep each other out. Everyone hates everyone.

    Some will say that’s not true, but people are speaking their hearts in those meetings and it’s an ugly scene.

    We don’t need a border fence with Mexico, we need to split Atlanta into 4 quadrants so all out war doesn’t erupt. This is insanity.

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