Live Blog: Board of Education Meeting 4/10/12

We will live blog today from the 2pm Committee of the Whole meeting, 6pm Community Meeting and 7pm Legislative Meeting.

2pm Agenda includes financial forecast from Chuck Burbridge, superintendent’s redistricting and closure recommendations, approval of the minutes of the March meeting and approval of the April Committee of the Whole Agenda.

REFRESH your browser often for updates.

2:19 – Meeting called to order. Roll has been called. All BOE members are present.

2:21 – Superintendent Davis introduces Chuck Burbridge, CFO of APS.  FY 2021 Financial Update beginning now.

Note:  I will post the financial update once it is available digitally – simply too much data to blog without making a mistake.

2:30 – Supt. Davis prepares for demographic study presentation.

Davis: BOE, if you make a decision today, this will be the end of a two year process.  During that period of time, we have had an excess of 100 meetings as well as 70 in the last month alone.  This process from my perspective has been “interesting” which is sometimes used to describe ugly babies as well (laughter), I’ve certainly heard alot and learned alot as well.  A lot of meetings were focused on how we got where we are today, and one should understand that before moving forward, but what we are proposing is nothing about how we got to where we are or where we are but where we want to be….that is the focus of our efforts.

It is constantly being suggested that I only care about dollars – it is irrefutable that dollars are the fuel that fund this engine.  Without dollars we cannot improve schools in the way we want to.  We are projected to be down $120M from the previous 4 years in regards to our revenue.  Our spending has not declined.  Our budget deficit is well over $40M dollars at this time.

We have made commitments, but we cannot meet those commitments with the number of small, almost tiny schools we have in existence.  We have to make staffing changes.  There will be an Asst. Principal in every school – it will have a significant impact on teaching issues, instruction, allowing the principal to make more substantive and intellectual contributions to the program.  We have a number of logistical things that must be done before day one one we have to put together a budget together as well.

No one wants their school closed and we have tried to be sensitive to that.  This Board is not responsible for the population shifts in the city, but we need to respond and do so in an equitable manner from an educational perspective.  My commitment is not to buildings, it is to children.  This proposal you will see before you – we had 38 schools with less than 450 students – this takes it down to 17 schools.  The economics to close the school is quite overwhelming.  You hear numbers such as 500k per school but that is just the beginning.  By consolidating 3 schools into 2, we need 6 less teachers and that plus one less principal and less operational costs and the savings is $1.1M.  It is our intent, to the extent that we can pull it off, to plow all of these savings back into instruction and support.

There is a cost to making decisions, but there is also a cost to not making decisions tonight.  We can’t adequately prepare the portfolio of schools that we have now for the Common Core, NCLB is dead, we need more college prep and all of this takes resources.  This exercise is about making resources available.

2:38 I have the luxury of not having to run for office, but I know you all do and are subject to pressures that I am not subject to. We will implement your decision but we need to make a decision today.  We would like to end this multi-year process tonight and move forward.  Mr. Smith will take you thru the details of this proposal.

Steve Smith, Asst. Superintendent will now giving the proposal. – APS has been in the midst of a massive redistricting effort over the past 11 months. In the last month alone, we have received an incredible amount of feedback on the preliminary redistricting and closure proposal submitted to the board on March 4th:  We have held 76 community meetings.  Countless responses online, via email & comment cards and hours of public discussion.  As a result, we have made significant changes to the original proposal.  Yet the reality is that no one will be 100% satisfied….that’s because instead of doing what is in the best interest of one child/one school, we are doing what’s right for all students at all schools. Our choices were by no means easy. They have brought about unkind allegations and personal attacks.At the same time, they have brought about thoughtful solutions that, again, are incorporated in this final recommendation. Our goal has been to fulfill three charges: 1.  Top priority – ensure students’ academic success. 2.  Be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars. 3.  Take into account the community impact.

Examples of Community Feedback That Helped Shape the Final Recommendation 

Do not close all schools just because of low enrollment – DONE.

In fact, APS has 38 ES and MS with fewer than 450 students.

Low enrollment causes us to lose full state funding.

So if we were closing schools for purely financial reasons (as has been mistakenly said), we would be closing all 38 schools.

However, we are NOT because doing so would be devastating to communities across the city.

Originally, we proposed to close 13 schools.

Now, we have reduced the closures to only 10 schools.

We will redistribute enrollment across the remaining schools.

That will leave us with 17 ES and MS schools that are still under enrolled – a number with which we can live in order to ensure the least disruption possible to communities across Atlanta.

We will be in a better position to be able to provide more resources to students across the system.

If you close my neighborhood school, do NOT tear down the building – DONE.

Capitol View is NO longer being considered for demolition.

Rezone my neighborhood into a school that serves as a natural boundary – DONE.

All of Grant Park, Summer Hill and Cabbagetown will be zoned to Parkside Elementary.

Do not disturb my child’s life, especially since he or she will be entering his last year of school – DONE

Students in the following grades will be able to stay at their current school:

Rising fifth-graders

Rising eighth-graders

ALL current HS students (regardless of their grade level)

ANY student who is attending school on a valid  out-of-zone transfer, including those approved by the school principal.

Make EVERY APS school a high quality and attractive choice for parents – IN PROGRESS

Later this evening, the board will vote on the reorganization of our largest and most important department: the curriculum and instruction department.

Deputy Superintendent Karen Waldon is leading the effort to strengthen the professional team that will ensure academic excellence and equity across the system.  

A major part of both the redistricting and reorganization is our cluster model approach.

We are creating 9 K-12 clusters to replace SRTs/OHS.   

A cluster model means that ES students will be able to move with all of their schoolmates to one dedicated MS and one dedicated HS.

This approach helps to create stable schools and encourages stronger parental engagement.

We believe the cluster approach is a major reason the schools feeding into North Atlanta HS have enjoyed academic success.

Under APS’ cluster model, the idea is for all students   (not just students who live in certain areas) to have access to music, arts, foreign language and core academic programs that are high quality and well coordinated – from start to finish, from kindergarten through Grade 12.

We believe the cluster model will decrease the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate.

The cluster approach will better support instruction, especially as we begin implementing the Common Core State Standards across the curriculum this coming school year.

School-by-School Recommendations

On the slides is an illustration of the 9 proposed clusters.

Let me walk board members and the audience through the final school-by-school changes by cluster.

Carver HS Cluster

Capitol View ES will be closed and repurposed (students rezoned to Perkerson).

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Finch ES

Gideons ES

Perkerson ES

Slater ES

And Thomasville Heights ES is no longer slated for closure; it will remain open.
Parks MS

Parks will be closed in 2013-14.

However, for the upcoming SY, Parks will have seventh- and eighth-grade classes only for students who are currently attending Parks.

Those students will have a choice: They may continue attending Parks, or they may attend their reassigned school (Sylvan Hills; King; and to a smaller degree, Price).

We are aware of the community concerns about closing/combining schools in this area, and we will plan accordingly.

We will use 2012-13 to work with community, city, county, and state officials to plan for a career academy at Parks.

Let me explain the career academy concept by explaining what it is NOT: It’s NOT the old cosmetology and shop class that existed when many of us were in school.

A career academy offers young adults vocational or technical career education in a small, supportive learning environment that links students to technical colleges and future employers.

For example, at a true career academy in the 21st century, students may study avionics, which is the science and technology of everything electrical on an aircraft or spacecraft.

We will seek the community’s input to help determine the fields of study and partnership opportunities at the career academy.

And before Parks is converted to a career academy in Jan. 2015, the facility will be repurposed as a transition site for 2013-14.

Price MS will remain open with some change to its attendance boundary.

Sylvan Hills MS:

Will remain open with some change to its attendance boundary

It will be renovated and expanded at an est. cost of $30M.

Douglass HS Cluster

The following schools will be closed and repurposed:

F.L. Stanton ES (students will be rezoned to Peyton Forest and Grove Park/Woodson).

Towns ES (students rezoned to Adamsville/Miles, Fain and Scott).

White ES (students will be rezoned to Grove Park/Woodson).

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Boyd ES and Fain ES are NO longer slated for closure and will remain open.

Grove Park ES/Woodson ES will convert to a split K-2 primary and 3-5 ES.

Scott ES

Usher ES

Altogether, five ES will feed into Harper/Archer MS and Douglass HS.

However, students who live in the Boyd, Grove Park/Woodson and Scott zones will have first preference on attending the single-gender middle and high schools.

If the board passes a resolution later this evening, B.E.S.T. Academy and Coretta Scott King will be open to citywide enrollment.

And students previously zoned to the single-gender academies NO longer will have to OPT OUT of the academies in order to attend Harper/Archer MS and Douglass HS.

Instead, students will have to OPT IN to attend the single-gender academies.

Again, students at Boyd, Grove Park/Woodson and Scott will have first preference on attending the academies.

Grady HS Cluster

Cook ES will be closed and repurposed (students rezoned to Centennial Place, Hope-Hill, Parkside and Whitefoord).

Centennial Place ES will remain open with some change to its attendance boundary. 

Hope-Hill ES will remain open and be rezoned to Inman

Mary Lin ES:

Will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

~$15M will be invested for select additions and renovations at Mary Lin.

Students will NOT be relocated.

Morningside ES will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

Springdale Park ES:

Will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

While there are a few issues left to resolve, an expansion of Springdale Park may be feasible.

Inman MS:

To alleviate overcrowding at Inman, we will use portables next year.

However, this is a temporary solution only, as our projections show that in 2016-17, there will be NO building large enough to accommodate more than one grade level of Inman students.

We will continue to monitor growth and develop solutions during the next two to three years.

As we seek longer term solutions, the Cook facility will be available for use as a sixth grade academy for Inman.

Jackson HS Cluster

East Lake ES will be closed and the facility used as a transition site (students rezoned to Toomer).

D.H. Stanton ES will be closed (students rezoned to Parkside and Benteen).

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Benteen ES (has been rezoned to the Jackson cluster)

Burgess-Peterson ES

Dunbar ES

Parkside ES

Toomer ES

Whitefoord ES

Coan MS

Is NO longer slated for closure and will remain open.

However, the facility will be used temporarily as a transition site next year for the students of Jackson HS.

During the 2012-13 SY, students currently attending Coan will be relocated to the East Lake facility.

Most importantly, APS will work to create a new Coan by making significant investments, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program and intensive process improvements.

King MS

Will remain open with some change to its boundary.

We will also make significant investments in King, including the IB Program, architectural modifications and intensive process improvements.

Jackson HS:

Will be rebuilt at a cost of $40M

As I mentioned, while the HS is being renovated, students will be relocated to the Coan facility.

We are making other investments in Jackson, including the IB Program and intensive process improvement focus.

Mays HS Cluster

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Adamsville/Miles ES will be a split K-2 primary and 3-5 elementary school.

Beecher Hills ES

Cascade ES

Peyton Forest ES

West Manor ES

 Young MS

Young must be appropriately sized to fit the HS.

Young will be expanded for slightly less than $10M.

Construction will begin in July of 2013.

It is anticipated that students will NOT be relocated.


North Atlanta HS Cluster

Bolton Academy will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

Brandon ES

Will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

The population at Brandon will be monitored for overcrowding.

Decisions on temporary versus long-term solutions will be determined at the appropriate time.

Garden Hills ES

Will remain open with some change to its attendance boundary.

In order to relieve overcrowding, all of Pine Hills will be zoned from Garden Hills to Sarah Smith.

Jackson ES will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

E. Rivers ES

Will remain open with NO change to its attendance boundary.

Will be rebuilt starting in fall of 2013 to alleviate overcrowding.

Students will relocate to the existing Sutton site for 18 months.

Smith ES will remain open with some change to its attendance boundary, as I mentioned.

 Sutton MS

Will have NO change to its attendance boundary

Sutton will move to the present North Atlanta HS facility in fall of 2013.

By 2014-15, Sutton is expected to outgrow its new home.

As this happens, the old Sutton site will be used to accommodate a sixth-grade academy.

South Atlanta HS Cluster

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Cleveland Avenue ES

Dobbs ES

Heritage Academy

Hutchinson ES

And Humphries ES is NO longer slated for closure and will remain open.

Long MS: will be expanded and appropriately sized to fit the HS at a present est. cost of slightly less than $10M.

 Therrell HS Cluster

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Continental Colony ES

Deerwood Academy ES

Fickett ES

Kimberly ES

Bunche MS

Must be appropriately sized to fit the HS

Will be completely renovated starting in the July of 2013 at a present cost of approximately $25M

Students will be relocated during the 2013-14 school year.

Washington HS Cluster

Herndon ES will be closed and repurposed (students rezoned to Bethune).

The following schools will remain open with some change to their attendance boundaries:

Bethune ES

Connally ES

M.A. Jones ES

Venetian Hills ES

Brown MS

Brown will be expanded, if necessary, once the impact of declining out-of-zone transfers and growth rates are reviewed.

The present cost of expansion would be slightly less than $10M.

Construction will begin in July of 2013.

Students will NOT be relocated.

Kennedy MS

Kennedy will be closed at the end of the 2013-14 SY.

Until then, the school will have seventh- and eighth-grade classes.

So rising seventh- and eighth-graders who currently attend Kennedy may continue to do so if they choose.

In addition, families with seventh- or eighth-graders who move into the new Washington cluster zone between August of 2012 and May of 2014 will have the option of attending Kennedy or their reassigned school, Brown.

And similar to Parks, we will work with the community, city, county and state officials to open a career academy at the Kennedy site.

The career academy is slated to open in 2015-16.

North Atlanta HS will transition to its new home in fall of 2013.

I think it’s worth emphasizing that the decision to close any school is never easy.

These schools have many hard-working students, teachers, administrators, parents and partners.

They have done absolutely nothing wrong.

The superintendent has said that the recommendation has nothing to do with race or the testing controversy.

Rather, it has everything to do with saving money and redirecting the funds to better services for all children.

Last month, board members asked that we define the services and resources students can expect.

Some examples: an assistant principal in every school, nurse in the building five days a week not just one, social workers in the building on a regular basis, and equity in special education and other programs.

Do we know right now the specific resources that will be available at each school?

No – that work lies ahead of us.

Again, our charge is to ensure academic excellence and academic equity.

In order to meet this goal, we will resource our schools accordingly.

Should the board approve this final recommendation,  we will launch a school transition plan immediately and implement it throughout the summer.

We have a true opportunity to take the best from ALL schools – including the schools that are closing – and create a stronger educational experience for all students.

We will use a fair/open process to determine the placement of principals and teachers.

And we will redouble our communication efforts to keep everyone well informed every step of the way.

Last point I’d like to share:

At a particularly tense community meeting recently, a parent – angry and exhausted – closed the meeting with these words (paraphrasing): I get it now. If a school is too small, the state won’t give APS full resources. So if you’re going to close my school, then give us some answers. Let us work with you. We will do what it takes to make the new school a stellar school!

We already have a repurposing team in place, and it includes members from the local school council, Parent Teacher Association, Neighborhood Planning Unit and City Council.

And should the board approve this plan, a school closure transition team will have its first meeting tomorrow, April 11th.

Let’s use the time ahead to work together to ensure that every school that remains open in APS is in fact a stellar school.

Thank you.

As this time, I’ll ask for questions from the board.

Q&A Now Taking Place

“Our focus is on children, not on communities” says Davis in response to a question from Courtney English about the closure of D.H. Stanton.  initially we moved 600 students in order to keep Stanton open, but only 50% of the students in the Stanton zone actually use the school.  We are zoning these students to higher performing schools, based on our statistics.  We also got feedback from Cook, Benteen and others about going into D.H. Stanton and rightly or wrongly they did not want to be zoned into Stanton.

We can always say we are not going to make any changes, but we want to make the best decisions that we can.  I agree with you, the time this community had to respond was short, but there is no response that can make up for the fact that only 200+ kids attend this school from the zone and that represents around 50% of the zoned children.  While the community evidences a love for the school, only 55% of the students who live in the community are actually attending the school.

English: There is no column for fairness, so that is my concern.  It’s a process concern.  I get the numbers.  The issue I have is how and when it came about, but we can address that later.

NOTE: Please forgive the brief notes above – missed a question or 2 from Mr. English while trying to update the website. Back to blogging now @ 3:32pm.

Y. Johnson: I noticed that Inman remains overcrowded and now is using trailers. Please provide more confirmation why this is not being addressed. The whole point of this process was to reduce overcrowding – but you left the most volatile problem unsolved.

Davis: The history in this cluster is that we want to be more circumspect and continue to discuss this issue.  I’ve had discussions now with the principals about the impacts of leaving trailers there long term, so what I’ve recommended is that we should take a year and figure out what is the best route.  The reality is that the building implodes over time – it cannot sustain the growth there.  A number of things have to be considered here.  A 6th grade academy is an easy consideration.  This is a cluster where K-8 has raised its head and we’ve agreed to spend a year looking at this model and if 2 of the schools elect to do that starting next year we can consider that.  I do not like portables long term and this cluster has had a history of portables long term.  We will make final improvements with Mary Lin this year and those portables have been there for a number of years.  As I look at our 9 clusters, the solutions we have from a planning perspective are less satisfying than any other.

I have the option of a 6th grade academy at Cook, but in terms of forecasts we’re talking about 4 years before you have an impossible situation.  A K-8 does not address this.  Architectural options are limited at the Inman site. If we want to move to a more permanent 6th grade academy this gives me a chance to look at the Howard and Walden buildings.  If the building can’t hold 2 classes , we will then have to consider 2 middle schools.

YJohnson: What about redrawing the lines?

Davis: Do you mean taking a school out of this cluster? Then no. The point is to I’ll be blunt, at the Coan meeting the question is why not zone in Lin to Coan – my response is that you (Coan) are utilizing the school at 50% so why would I rezone a school into another school that the community itself is not using.

YJohnson: Do you think that you can wrap this up before the end of your tenure? My concern is leaving this up to someone else.

Davis: We will definitely bring the K-8 discussion thru fruition.  But we don’t have a long term solution for this cluster on the table and I’m not sure what it is but I’m sure there are those out there who will tell me what it is.

Karen Waldon – Dept. Supt. of Instruction – confirms that she is prepared with this recommendation to move resources closer to schools such as counselors, nurses and AP’s.

Davis: In terms of finding monies, we’ve taken steps to free up money.  If you close 10 schools of course you free up 10 principals.  We’ve already freed up 9 with the transition from small schools and that represents a total $9M when enough principals are freed up.

YJohnson: What are the transition plans for the closing schools?

Smith: We have handled prelim planning based on our assumptions and transition team is set up and ready to act based on recommendation in front of you – it would be presumptuous to do more before tonight. We intend to meet the transition needs of our children and the transition team will make sure those needs are met.

Burks asks that we use the recommendations of children to guide our transition plan. Where possible we should look at how teachers can move to new schools with their students. I’ve also heard students say they want activities over the summer.  In the Woodson/Grove Park community I heard how unsafe it is for our kids to walk across a 4 lane state highway (Hollowell).  Even if a child lives less than a mile from the school we should look at providing them transportation for safety.  On the repurposing committees, we’ve talked about having NPU’s at the table – but some NPU’s are stronger than others, so I ask that we include a LSC member from every school, PTA members and Parent Liaison.

My question is around Towns elementary school – can we share that answer again.

Smith:  As it relates to Towns ES, just like Stanton we knew it would be problematic to do this over spring break.  A caveat here is that Towns was recommended to close in December 2011, again in January 2012.  It did not show in the superintendent’s 1st recommendation but once we looked at the fact that the students were mostly concentrated towards Fain, we took that into consideration + the fact that it had previously been on several closure lists and made our decision.

Amos: As a representative I need a little substance to go along with the faith we have in the district.  How does more services such as counselors and nurses translate to a better education for children? (applause) I want to make sure we are sending students to a better location an better school.  The question is on the repurposing, is it your thought to have one repurposing for the entire district…or what are you thinking? I know I will be having my own repurposing committees in our neighborhoods and we would like to bring our ideas to the APS repurposing committee and not have a top down process.  When buildings close, how are we planning on securing them? What is the game plan?

Smith:  We have had those prelim conversations and based on the facilities voted for closure we would work with our facilities team (a central part of the repurposing committee) to make sure those buildings remain safe.   This committee will not be top down, we’ve heard loudly and clearly that we need to work with the neighborhood, NPU, LSC, city, local and state authorities on this.  If there is one central theme I’ve heard since we announced the repurposing committee is collaboration.

Amos: I see a lot of students going into Grove Park/Woodson – What will be the final number of students in that complex

Smith: 987

Amos: What will be the split of F.L. Stanton.

Smith: There will be no split.

Kinnane: We have acknowledged that we are making changes in the Grady zone and we do expect to have the next couple of years we are brining in new kids. I want an acknowledgement that the school will need some extra support from the system for what will be 2 very full years at Grady.  Will we be working with the admin at Grady to make sure that their needs are met?

Davis: A constant point of discussion in all of this is Grady crowding but Grady is not the problem, the numbers go down as the magnet kids and out of zone kids go off. It does not go outside of planning capacity until 2019 and then only slightly and slowly.  I think they are dealing with the problems as with all new regimes and curriculum and courses of study we will have to work closely with the admin at ALL of our schools to find out their needs.  We are doing away with the formulaic staffing as much as possible. The big problem in this cluster is Inman. That’s the problem.

Kinnane: We need to be very careful about where and how we are saving money in this process.  I do worry when we make the statement about what we get from the state.  I know it is an oversimplification, we don’t need to exaggerate because I know we save money.

Davis: I think you’re right, we need to make the point that funding for students doesn’t change.  It’s inadequate.  There are very few cutoffs where the size gets you more money from the state.  Under 450 for example you only get 1/2 of a media specialist.  We don’t want to say we get more money because of the students themselves, because they come with a fixed revenue, but we get more from the shutting down of a building, staffing savings, etc.  There are savings but they don’t all come from the state.

Meister:  Over the break the Pine Hills neighborhood was added to the proposal and as I’ve worked with Kavi I’ve been assured that Smith will not have any capacity issues, can you confirm this?

Smith: We’ve tested and retested this issue. The Smith’s planning capacity is 1,320 based on a class size of 22. We are currently staffing at 22 students in KK, 25 students in 1 to 3 Grades, and 28 students in grades 4 and 5. Based on these class sizes, we believe that Smith will not have any capacity issues.

Davis:  There is a difference between planning capacity and actual capacity. The operating ratios are much higher than 1:22, in grades 4 & 5 in fact they are 1;30.  Multiplied by 60 classrooms you’re talking about the difference of 480 students you could accomodate with our present operating ratios.  The PEAK enrollment with Smith would be 1387 with the addition of Pine Hills.  That would happen in 2015-2016 and it goes down from there.

Meister: How will trailers affect the Inman campus and their fields?

Davis: There are 2 fields.  The more you put on any of these, the more you are going to compromise the open spaces that you have.  I do not like these but they are not wiping out play spaces.

Muhammad: Thank you for (list of items such as keeping Coan open, zoning all of Grant Park to Parkside, etc). Can you describe or tell me what you see as a stable cluster or school.

Davis: One of the things I’ve tried to do is reflect on what makes some areas more successful than others.  What do they have that others don’t have? First thing that leaps out are resources and did they come from the system or private resources….I also looked at structure.  Clearly as I looked at the northern part of our district, what I saw was elementary schools that 100% fed into a middle school and 100% fed into a high school.  My research also shows that the system has done a lot to get in the way of parents taking ownership at some schools. I looked at some places in the south where elementary students went to different middles and then even multiple high schools. No opportunity for parents to bond or move to  middle school together and take ownership of that…the same with high schools.  They were just going all over the place.  Of course this isn’t the only reason schools are successful or not, but this has led to our clusters.  I’m not trying to start a class warfare – I wanted to get people to focus on “what do they have and how can we get you that.”

This structure also allows for academic collaboration.  The focus is high school and principals/teachers will know that their students are coming from 1 or 2 fixed middle schools.  Too many parents tell me that kids got A’s and B’s in middle school but were not prepared for high school.  Teachers at every grade level will be able to collaborate with one another using the cluster model.  These things in themselves don’t assure success but give us a better chance at success.

Muhammad: I’m hoping that all of the schools that are viewed as unstable are identified.

Davis: I don’t think we labeled any schools unstable.

Muhammad: I submit to you that even with the cluster model there will always be some that do have and some that don’t have.  In this instance I don’t think we have that.

Davis:  As a school system we will never solve all inequities but we can respond accordingly.  I don’t think its equitable to treat everyone the same – it is more equitable to meet the needs of every school.  The staffing for instance moving forward, will be driven by need.  If I have more special needs kids in a class or a class full of gifted kids I will respond based on their needs and access/meet the unique needs of students and schools.

Muhammad: If all of that comes out of the recommendation that will be great but historically that has not been the case. (applause)  I would hope or think you have some specific programs that you would want in these empty buildings.

Smith:  We’ve gotten positive responses from the D.H. Stanton community, for instance, about using that facility about using it as a pre-k facility -that is a clear example of potential use of a facility that is not a top down process but takes the ideas from the community.

Muhammad: If we were working towards something gradually with D.H. Stanton, then why couldn’t we give them the opportunity to…I want to know why we cannot remove this item from the agenda for now and allow them to look at what it is they want to do.  We’ve looked at some others and made changes based on what they want to do…I will readily admit there was a time when I would have recommended this school for closure, but I see the beginnings of a Morningside in this school.  Can we remove it and give it an opportunity to show us what they can do?  I submit to you Mr. Supt. that when you that the children are the community.  We would not have communites if we did not have children.

McDaniel: Ms. Muhammad this is no longer a staff issue, it is a board issue so when we come to that particular item on the agenda we can address that.

Muhammad questions the amount to be spent at Jackson.

Smith: This is a $40M project.

McDaniel: There is an action item around Jackson today.

Muhammad: I’ll save it for then.  I have not seen in the recommendation how we are going to accomplish improving the graduation rate or other itmes. At some point we need to show how this plan will increase graduation rate and decrease drop out rates.

Smith: Ms. Waldon will respond to how we came to the cluster model and how it will retain and help us graduate our students.  Ms. Waldon is the appropriate person to speak on the cluster model.

English: The issue goes back to the “say do” thing.  If you say that its going to stop drop outs, then show us how.  You could have said a number of things (lists them), there are a million different metrics but what you specifically said is that this will help us decrease drop outs so show us how.

Davis: I want to add that this is not an on/off switch.  We now understand that the decision to drop out is a middle school decision not a high school decision so we’ve started weekly middle school meetings. Has that turned around drop outs? Its too soon to say.  We are not talking about fads – we are talking about instituting rigor and not chasing every initiative someone brings to us.  Again, I feel like we are doing different things but they are basic things.  We don’t have 10 day cycles here we have 10-12 year cycles here.  When you talk about say/do we will do but it will take a long time to see some of these outcomes…we didn’t get here overnight.

I appreciate Muhammad’s defense of Stanton.  Every school has a defense – “It could have been” existed 6 months ago and existed a year ago, it doesn’t just exist when the school is proposed for closure.  I think Mr. English is correct for calling us to task but at the end of the month there will be 215 students in that school.

Muhammad: You are right

Davis: We could keep it open,but it will be your responsibility to balance the school.  We are not recommended any closures for fun. Is it better to keep it open or is it better to provide the school with nurses, counselors, etc….

Audience Member: We don’t need no nurses

Muhammad: I’ve been around this district for 30 years and I now have great grandchildren who are coming into this system and I refuse to sit back in this capacity and allow decisions to be made that impact this community without raising my voice. Stanton is not the only one not doing well, why…because the resources were not put there.  Should the community have to suffer because they were not able to advocate for themselves?

Community members have signed up to speak about specific agenda items – happening now.

Doug Wood: Kirkwood residents attended a recent meeting regarding the Jackson HS renovation and learned that “daylighting” was not a part of the plan for the renovation.  We need to look at that for the betterment of this school.

Cleta Winslow: Whatever decision you have to make is not an easy decision.  I think many of you remember when we the City of Atlanta were in debt and had to do some things that we didn’t want to do.  Today I am here for F.L. Stanton Elementary School.  Schools and teachers save children. When you’re looking at an elementary school I can tell you it makes a difference in a neighborhood. These communities don’t know that they got one good eye and one bad eye.  In spite of the fact that they haven’t gotten state money these communities have gone into their own pockets to make things happen.  They don’t know they are on the deprived list because they have all of the resources at F.L. Stanton such as a guitar club, mock trial (names others).  We know you are bleeding red, you’re not bleeding green anymore – but when you’re dealing with the smallest of the children they need to be in a neighborhood school.  When you take 4 schools out of one community, that’s not right – it devastated west end for 10 years – please don’t do that to FL Stanton.

I wasn’t here to speak for Towns, but I have to say that I’m the former PTA President at that school and I can say that those parents are also involved.

Lisa Riggins: I am here on behalf of Towns – we don’t want any schools to close.

Stacy Merkerson: I am a student of Towns, parent of Towns and now a grandparent of Towns.  I want to make sure that you know that our kids get what they need at Towns. We have after school and extended day programs.  We have art, library and tech clubs.  We just need some help – we are maybe 40/50 students from what we need to stay open but with natural growth we will have this in the next couple of years.  We have had brand new heating and air systems put in our school plus major renovations. How can you say you’re saving money if you throw good money after bad.We were told that Mason ES was going to be repurposed after it closed, and it was for a few years, but then it was forgotten.  In our neighborhood Towns is there but Collier Heights is closed down.  We need for you all to come up with a plan.  I hope that when you vote you think of the children and not the dollars.

Public comment from community members who called in to speak on specific agenda items as ended.

Minutes and Agenda approved.

BOE moving into executive session and will return at 6pm.

6:45 – Community meeting now beginning – community members who signed up to speak will now address the board.

Speaker: What you are doing is mentally enslaving our children. Keep F.L. Stanton open. The impact that school closing will have on our community should be the critical factor, not enrollment or money.  Mr. Davis, you have failed us.  We might be a minority but we are the majority and we will decide who sits on that board next year.

Speaker: We have come to make recommendations to the ABOE.  We are happy to see AFT members here tonight.  An exhaustive list of all APS openings be provided if any school should close.  The faulty and staff should be given first priority in placement in our schools.  The criteria of seniority then district needs then performance be used to determine faculty placement. The district restricts itself does not hire from the outside until all displaced personnel have been placed in schools. There is a movement to privatize our schools (applause).  We have a members of our board and elected officials who are a part of this movement.  Standards have been set by a right wing President who is no longer in office.  All research says that public schools outperform charter schools.  The high courts have already ruled that local BOE’s should make the decision.  But people who look just like me have helped other agendas that will ultimately cause separation by class.

Speaker: I want to give all the accolades I can to Brenda Muhammad, who at our last session laid out what should happen here tonight.  I was at both hearings at Stanton.  When I woke up Sunday I thought it was an April Fool’s joke when I saw that Stanton was on the closure list.  I know that putting Stanton on the closure list is politics in the worst form and its not the superintendent I’m talking to…I’m talking to duly elected board members.  I’m not even saying that the superintendent from his perspective is wrong, I’m talking to the elected board members.  We have failed our children in APS.  You have an opportunity tonight to shine and make this city proud of each and every one of you as board members of APS if you do the right thing.  Some people suggest that you ought to table the issue, some believe you oughta put Stanton and Towns back on the no table list – I’m on that list.  There is no reason to close DH Stanton in Peoplestown. I have never understood why we use all of our resources for people who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and we neglect the people that need us the most.  People are taking a chance on the Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville community yet we find ourselves at a crossroads about our schools that would help these communities survive.  If you are for children you have an opportunity tonight to prove it.  If you are for children you will vote down the superintendent’s recommendation and you will open schools back up.  We have schools that have been closed for 30 years.  I know it might not have been on your watch but you don’t have to do what the old board did.  Do the right thing, please don’t neglect the kids that need you the most.  Parkside can stand up on its own.  You gone send the kids to Parkside instead of their school in the Peoplestown community.  Sometimes we have to make decisions in the best interest of our kids instead of whether the lights go off at a certain time or whether the classrooms are empty.  These are not numbers, these are real kids, real people…and I come to tell you today no lie can live forever and we can’t keep lying to our children.  Some of you may have degrees and have 2 car garages but it takes all of us to make education better.  I went in politics in 1975 and we had a 45% drop out rate then and the same now…so should we believe you? Ya’ll do the right thing cause God is still on the throne.

Councilman Young:  It has not just been the BOE but it has been Atlanta that has tolerated drop out rates that have been borderline 50% for decades.  That represents populations of people of which 25% will be incarcerated.  We got SPLOST int he 90’s and a preoccupation with redeveloping buildings.  Then as now, we should redirect our focus to developing the minds and spirits of our young people.  Human capital should have more value than infrastructure and buildings.  I have neighbors who have moved away when their children became school aged because they will not tolerate mediocrity.  Every neighborhood has spoken in unison that these school closings are wrong.  When we have so many things going on in the classroom not like they should so should our priority be budget or to redefine our classrooms.  Forget the fight between charter and traditional schools.  It ain’t no them and us…it is us!  We do a disservice to the young people in this audience..they don’t want to be a statistic.  We are going to give them what the tax payers have paid for for decades…a quality education. (applause) At the end of the day there is no choice greater than educating these young people at any cost.  What is the cost to take their children out of APS to private education.  What is the cost to a mother or father with a child educated by the streets instead of the classroom.  Vote no on school closures and vote yes on education today. (applause) We will get the buildings right, but every person in this audience is willing to spend whatever it takes if the consequence is education.

Speaker: You, the board, hired the superintendent to clean up the cheating scandal, not to clean out our schools.  He does not care about G.A. Towns. I pastor the church right across from the school, those children are brilliant and bright and deserve to stay in their neighborhoods.  I worked at the state capitol for 20 years.  I can smell a dead cat in my sleep.  The move to put Towns on the closing list during spring break is a political move.  Our children are not cattle to be moved around.  You decided to split our kids with a school that has not met AYP in years and our board member will not speak on our behalf, so I am the board member for them tonight.  These children have not done anything wrong.  They deserve to stay in their neighborhoods.  If you vote to close these precious schools, we will go out and recruit candidates to run against you (huge applause).

Speaker: Our hispanic community at Towns was so confused that they thought our school closed yesterday and didn’t send their children to school today.  Our children did nothing.  Our board member does not represent us.

Speaker: I am here on behalf of APS Meet in the Middle. We started as 10 concerned parents.  We feel for everyone here for school closures but our issue is a little bit different but just as important.  We now have over 800 supporters.  This decision concerning Sutton Middle School is an easy decision in favor of quality education.  We provided extensive research in volumes to Ms. Meister and the Board.  We are asking for you to consider evidence based researched.  What we know is that the evidence show 2 smaller equally diverse middle schools better supports our cluster.  We have information that we sent to the board, a study that shows that 2 middle schools is in the best interest for our children.  We are not facing closure but our children will suffer.  I would ask that the BOE ask, what is the basis of the superintendent’s rejection of 2 diverse middle schools? His plan is completely opposite of the outside demographers.  It is against the recommendation of an expert from GA State.  What research has been done to support the current configuration that has been proposed? Research shows that a 6th grade academy and 7/8 jr high is the worst configuration possible.  If this is a financially based decision, we ask for a financial analysis with financial back up.  finally, I questioned why there is a different criteria for Inman when overcrowding i an immediate concerned.  Why is Inman any different than Sutton Middle School.  We ask the board to consider this new compelling evidence.  Fears of redistricting in our cluster is not a basis for a 6th grade academy.  Please consider the information and evidence and make a decision based on facts and not a flip of a coin toss.  We request you vote no to the current proposal and support 2 smaller middle schools.

Speaker:  We reject the redistricting of 2500 residences into Sarah Smith.  It is inconceivable to us and others that such decisions could be made without a fair opportnity to express its views.  We understand that Garden Hills is burdened with capacity issues but we don’t think it is fair to shift that burden to us.  We were not given data.  If you are redistricting our school, why are you not confident in sharing your numbers.  Outside demographers told us that our school cannot handle the area proposed to be zoned into us.  This process is flawed.  Proposing changes during a time when offices are closed makes us question the integrity of the decision and question you.  On behalf of the Sarah Smith PTA request that each of you move the board table this recommendation for 30 days.

Speaker: Like all of you I’m looking forward to the end of this process.  We’ve all done a lot of learning thru this process.  I for one know twice as many SPARK parents than before.  Mr. Supt. you deserve a lot of credit for listening, but frankly a lot of stress that we suffered over the past months could have been lessened by a head on process that engaged us…via our PTA’s, PTO’s, etc.

Speaker: As a teacher I am concerned that this is all happening around the CRCT.  We need to know more about the pay change, we need more information about our split schools…its really making us stressed.  We got a plan before us that is probably going to pass, now my question is what are you (turns to audience) going to do to make it work.  Are you going to continue to be here?  Another thing, we have 3 charter schools talking about opening in SW Atlanta.  We are about to have more empty buildings.  Think about that when you choose charter schools. Keep our schools open.

Speaker: I hang my head in shame as a product of APS.  As a parent at Walter White I am ashamed of this system that we once in high regard is held in sad, sad stages.  I know 9 people that will run against you come 2013.  I say to you superintendent its not your fault because they hired you.

Speaker: I am a parent at Woodson Elementary school and we were told that you want to make our school a split with Grove Park and make it a K-2/3-5 school.  We are opposed to this.  Our son is there and we don’t want to tear up that community and split them apart. The people that are there sometimes have 2-3 different kids in different grades and it will be hard on those trying to participate at both schools.  We propose that you combine our school with Boyd to create a K-5 school.

Speaker: We are seeking the transparency APS promised.  The terminology was so evasive most of us didn’t understand it. All of Pine Hills into Smith, what does that mean?  We now know that other densely populated areas surrounding Pine Hills were also zoned in.  After a few weeks that assured us that our boundaries would not change, new boundaries were created.  If you are applying operating ratios at Garden Hills, guess what, they are under capacity.  As recently as this morning many don’t even know what is going on.  Those kids don’t know they are about to be uprooted.  Our research indicates 2,500 residences are about to move into Smith and no one knows who these people are.  Please vote no.

Speaker: Have you ever had a home invasion? You are trying to close down our school, DH Stanton in our neighborhood and it ain’t right. We need our school in our community.  We don’t want to see any schools closed.  We know you can find the money somewhere.

Speaker: Under this recommendation I will be rezoned to Benteen. In the name of transparency the one question the DH Stanton has is what is the fact based evidence used to close Stanton, and where and from whom did the superintendent receive this fact based evidence?  We believed that our interim superintendent would act with courage – we went back to the hard work at DH Stanton and worked together as a community to make Stanton a better school.  Instead apparently we were wasting our energy.  I heard the supt. say he can’t pull resources out of thin air – but you told us you would consider new evidence and we did it in 5.  We will not support a closure of Stanton and then repurposing it for a 0-5 center.  I ask you to stand on principle and reject the closing of DH Stanton.

Speaker: When I heard during spring break that 10 schools would close, I was reminded that the Hope Scholarship was done the same way.  Do you know who was a part of the same thing – Mr. Davis.  So yes, this is a tactic that is used.  It seems like you are not compelled by concerned parents speaking to you today.  I know what motivates you – its money.  We will find ways that you do what we want you to do, I promise you that.  So for your sake I would say vote no.

Speaker:  I am a proud parent of F.L. Stanton.  I do not knock any of these schools in here.  I say keep all the schools open.  I’m not the parent at Sarah Smith that can bake fresh cookies and bring them to school, but they deserve small classes and so do we.  I have 2 jobs and I’m in school.  I can’t be involved in 3 or 4 schools, one in high school and the others in the k-2/3-5 split.  I want you to vote to keep all the schools open.

Mr. Davis stepped out of the meeting. Crowd now chanting “We want Erroll Davis.”  Crowd disgruntled.

5 minute break called by Board Chair.

8:23 Minute has been called back to order.

Speaker:  I have two kids who will be separated if FL Stanton closes. All I ask for is an answer, its been a long process.  Keep my school open. Save my school.

Speaker: How was Bethune on the list at the beginning of the process and it is now no longer on the list?  You continue to build the community up in Buckhead but no funds come down here.  They are asking for 2 schools and all we are asking for is one to stay open.  Mr. Amos has a child that attends Bethune, the same one that got off the list.  All our kids want at the end of the day is an education.

Speaker: I come to you today as the student body president of King Middle School.  How will closing 10 schools and saving $5M increase our graduation rate and academic achievement? Are you saying money is the way to solve these problems.  If money is not the reason these schools are in this situation, money should not be the reason these students are closed.  I hope our board members will do what is morally right and not what is politically right.

Speaker: Prior to the opening of the Smith campus, APS paid for a study in 2008 that took a look at the traffic impact at that school.  It clearly shows that the primary campus is over by 20% in trying to get to school.  The current campus is within 16% of that fulfillment.  What I hear about closing DH Stanton in such a fast manner, I can’t believe that any of these decisions could have been made with real risk analysis.  You think you’re saving money upfront, but when it comes to implementing this the cost savings will be minimal.

Speaker:  Thank you for listening to our Grady cluster and putting trailers on our property.  It is a sad day when we are rejoicing over trailers while you plan middle schools for other clusters.  I ask you to make one change on behalf of the Grady cluster, the current plan kicks the can.  “Please do not force us to endure this pergutory any longer.” Please give yourselves a deadline for our middle school and get a plan in place for our cluster by December 31 while supt. Davis is still here.

Speaker:  My daughter goes to Garden Hills, one of the top 3 most crowded schools in the district.  We’ve heard others get up and speak about the overcrowding potential of Smith.  But I want to refresh your memory about a letter they sent to you in December that stated the demographers got it wrong, “we have ample capacity.”  This move takes Garden Hills down to 106% capacity.  Other than that letter, lets talk about what the issues really are.  What we are really talking about is an apartment complex on Buford Highway.  Why do you think we’re talking about bringing 120 kids into a school? Its not about capacity its about bringing a hundred Latino kids into their school.

Next speaker speaks on behalf of Harper Archer – she is a retired teacher and now PTSA president.  She talks about the history of the principals at the school. 4 in the past year.  Building in state of disrepair.  Asking for consistency and asks that board vote no on removing Adamsville as a feeder school and against the closing of Towns.

Speaker:  Who is going to be accountable at APS when we find out in August that the numbers at Grady are wrong?  How long will the 10 portable trailers be at Grady?  The Grady cluster has had 3 demographic studies in the last few years – all tell us that the cluster is overcrowded.  Is it too much to ask for our kids to go to school in the Grady cluster and not in portables.

Speaker:  I think what we hear but haven’t dealt with in APS is race.  When APS came into existence in 1869 they didn’t include black people in the system.  As a matter of fact there was a long history of suing after the Brown vs Board.  Atlanta had the largest white flight in the history of the nation following school integration.  Dr. Hall closed 22 schools during her tenure…its not a new concept to close schools in APS.  What has happened is that when we look at where the schools are, we have not done a great job of communicating.  The respect that the parents and community needs would have been more information.  To give no information at meetings is not transparency.  People would rather have portables across their fields and be on top of each other instead of going to schools where black people are?  We need to identify what stable is, it doesn’t just mean that we are staying together in a cluster.

Note: We are now on speaker number 41 of 75 tonight.

Speaker: We are one Atlanta.

Note: We are still in the community portion of our meeting.  The Committee of the Whole Meeting (began at 2pm) was put on hold to begin this 6pm meeting.  After the last community speaker finishes we will continue the Committee of the Whole Meeting, followed by the legislative meeting (which was scheduled to begin at 7pm).  Some of our followers may wonder about the late hour, however policy dictates that all speakers who sign up must be heard.

Speaker: I’m coming from the Kirkwood community, so Stanton keep the faith because we got ourselves off the chopping block.  There is so much injustice going on this room.  You guys are closing EastLake and bringing those 244 students over to Toomer and we are in such a good place and we need support to succeed on the first day of school.  We need that money for Toomer now.  Dr. Jones needs the resources that you guys can give her.  Coan was the 2nd middle school in the Grady cluster, we were all begging to come to the same table. We still welcome you…we are now out of the Grady cluster, coming to Jackson, which will be an amazing school.  We need a strategy and plan with a reasonable timeline.  Coan students need to be back at Coan physically.

Another Garden Hills parent thanks the supt. for rezoning Pine Hills into Sarah Smith.

Peoplestown resident voices outrage of lack of “adequate due process and transparency.”

Speaker: I need our neighbors in Summerhill and Grant Park to stand up and speak up for Peoplestown and DH Stanton.  Did the charter school in Grant Park play a part in this? Table the vote on Stanton. Give us time. Do not ship our students to a school across from a federal penitentiary.

Speaker:  I have an issue with these hasty decisions from pulling principals….we have all these new principals and they can’t make a decision without asking someone else.  I stand as a teacher who enjoys working at Kennedy Middle School and sat at a meeting with the Atlanta Business League tell us that they were willing to help us along the way.  I stand here because other parents from my community can’t be here.  Sometimes I’m the only parent they have.  Don’t make our kids a dollar sign.  They didn’t grow up like you.  The reality is I didn’t grow up like you.  I’m going to fight for these kids.

Speaker: What we have here is a lack of communication.  I’m coming from the Smith zone and we had no prior notice.  Why don’t we just slow down for a second – take a moment to think – and do the right thing because some of this is not going to be re-addressed for 10 years.

Speaker:  I moved into Peoplestown 2 months ago and spent 40k to renovate.  It was a project that I decided to take on because I wanted to be in Peoplestown and I wanted that house.  What I’m hearing from everyone here is that the board needs to reconsider closing any schools in the city of Atlanta.  I understand the lack of communication, that’s part of it…but the biggest problem is that the Board is so focused with going with the changes of the wind based on demographers and census – the BOE is the driver or community economic development.  I don’t think the BOE and supt is taking a holistic approach to this issue.  You have assets at DH Stanton. Closing all because a few parents from Summerhill don’t want their children at the school with kids from DH Stanton.  I implore you Mr. Davis to reconsider your view and education is at the center of any kind of development….I could have moved anywhere but Peoplestown is where I wanted to be.  Stanton is an asset and we need it.

Speaker:  My daughter attends Cook Elementary and the thing that is going on now is modern day segregation.  If the Grady cluster is over crowded wouldn’t it make sense to have them come south and join with us as one? I have a major problem with the Grady cluster.  They are worried about their kids being in trailers and we are worried about our schools closing.  Why were they not just rezoned?

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10 minute recess for security purposes.

10:20pm Meeting is now resuming

Speaker: Can you take a moment to step back? Where’s the rush? Where’s the fire?

Speaker:  I stand here as a parent and graduate of APS.  Board members, it is time to get back to the basics of caring.  Do not underestimate the abilities of our communities to fight for the chances to be equally educated.

Speaker:  I’m a Grady cluster parent.  You are fighting to stay in your school and I’m fighting to stay in mine too.  You’re fighting for your schools and I’m fighting to stay in the schools I purposely moved to be in. I support the Grady proposal as proposed and I hope the Grady cluster remains in tat and that we can insert some language that resolves the Inman Middle situation this year so that we can get past what has been going on in our neighborhood which is a lot of divisiveness, yelling and screaming.  Please consider removing the uncertainty of Inman Middle to be resolved.  We know there are some options on the table and we look forward to working with the other neighborhoods to work on a plan.

Speaker: I want you to save Stanton because in the 10 days you provided us over a holiday, our neighborhood came up with a 13 page proposal to keep the school open.  How can you spend millions on a beltline park then shut down the pillar of our community?

Speaker: I’ve lived in the community for 38 years – in Peoplestown – I raised 3 children to DH Stanton and graduate to on thru King and Jackson and to become successful with double degrees.  I look around at the hard work that the community does – we work as a full community.  When we work on something, we gather everyone together because we are focused on success and on our children, seniors and DH Stanton.

Speaker:  We need full time nurses, social workers, counselors.  We need that mental support for our students.  Yay for Bunche – I am happy about that renovation.  I don’t want to be in Harper Archer during our renovations and I want to make sure the community has a say-so about the next principal.

Speaker: I am the South Atlanta LSC chair.   I find the method by used by APS to announce the transition of small schools into academies to show a lack of transparency.  We found out by a letter the Friday before spring break.  Our students have outscored the district on 7 or the 8 end of school tests.  We want a say in what is best for our students.


As a South Atlanta parent, PTA officer and home school liaison it is disheartening to receive changes about my son’s high school. We received this news 2 days before spring break.  How can I share with families when our voices are not heard? It is hard to bridge the gap between home and school.  Now we understand that project Grad is going away for our high school students.  You guys are closing schools but what about jobs?

Speaker:  I don’t under stand the Douglass district, it doesn’t make sense to me.  Please revisit the district.  I live in a community adjacent to Douglass and it appears that the way you have it zoned, with two middle schools behind it CSK/BEST and Harper Archer are being bused to Mays (Note: I think the speaker may misunderstand the proposal).  I would like that you keep CSK and BEST as feeder schools for Douglas.  On another note, Peyton Forest didn’t have textbooks all year – I know a child who didn’t bring home books all year – she would bring home worksheets every week.  A school with no books is like a car with no gas, a politician with no platform.

END OF COMMUNITY MEETING – 5 minute break and we will return to the Committee of the Whole meeting for discussion and agenda items, which includes redistricting.

11:23pm – Meeting called back to order  View the Board Agenda Here:

First item – Report No. 11/12-4312 Authorization to Modify School Attendance Zone Boundaries for Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, BEST Academy at Ben S. Carson, Harper-Archer Middle School and Douglass High School (Final Approval)

In order to provide more students with the opportunity to take advantage of a single-gender educational environment, the superintendent recommends a revision of the enrollment zone structure for these schools. The attendance zones of the single-gender academies will become priority enrollment areas for the single-gender schools. All students who reside within the current attendance boundaries (Boyd, Scott, Grove Park/Woodson Elementary Schools) may choose to attend the appropriate single-gender academy for grades 6 through 12. Those who choose not to opt-in will be zoned to Harper-Archer Middle and Douglass High Schools. Transportation will continue to be provided for these students to the selected single-gender school (CS King, BEST) or to the traditional zoned school (Harper-Archer, Douglass).

The remaining enrollment spaces in the single-gender schools will be filled via applications received from students citywide. Implementation of the new citywide enrollment will occur after comprehensive planning and installation of enhanced instructional and support programs tailored to the needs of boys and girls. Students attending the single-gender schools who reside outside of the priority enrollment area will not receive transportation.


The board should accept the superintendent’s recommendation to change the enrollment structure for CS King and BEST Academy and the boundary lines for Harper-Archer Middle and Douglass High Schools.


To provide all students residing in the current attendance zone for the single-gender academies with the opportunity to opt in to the single-gender environment and open enrollment in the single-gender schools citywide.

Next Item: Report No. 11/12-4313 Authorization to Close Schools and Modify School Attendance Zone Boundaries (Final Approval)

Due to enrollment shifts over the past decade, school closings and school zone boundary changes are needed to balance enrollments, maximize and conserve resources, and improve the quality of educational delivery across the district. The proposed changes reduce the number of vacant seats in the district by more than half to better align resources and increase school enrollments to ensure that all students have the opportunity to have critical support personnel in their schools such as social workers, counselors, school nurses, and assistant principals, as well as a full range of course offerings. Most importantly for  continued improvement, the proposal aligns every school in the district into a stable K-12 cluster, eliminating elementary and middle schools in split feeder patterns and allowing for articulated instructional programming from kindergarten through graduation. This alignment is vital to achieving the goal of college and career readiness for all students. The stable cluster model is widely seen as a best practice and has been instrumental in the development of the most successful schools in the district.

Over the past two years, the district has worked with independent demography firm Bleakley and Associates to analyze and project enrollment trends. The district has engaged the community in several rounds of comment and feedback including focus groups, public meetings, hearings, surveys and online responses. The attached proposal has been informed by a series of over 100 public hearings and feedback has been considered and incorporated where possible while preserving the overall goal of improved instructional programming and resource stewardship for all students.


The board should adopt the superintendent’s attached Final Redistricting and School Closure Recommendation and the attached maps that represent the recommended school zone boundary changes.


To balance enrollments, maximize and conserve resources, and improve the quality of educational delivery across the district.


The proposed closings and boundary changes will result in a minimum estimated $5 million in cost savings due to increased state funding and decreased operational costs.

McDaniel moves to keep open DH Stanton, FL Stanton and Towns

Mr. Amos makes a motion to accept the superintendent’s recommendation, 2nd given.

Discussion: YJohnson – how will be assure the education for these students

Davis: This will leave us with 7 students closing, we will do what we committed to doing – if we have to cut in other areas we will do that.  We have to get the resources closer to the children.  I will not say that because of these modifications we will be compromising in any way.

Muhammad: I want to thank you for this motion, it gives the community an opportunity to continue their work at DH Stanton.

Davis:  One positive thing out of these exercises has been that across the district we have had a reawakening of a lot of communitites.  A renewed and intensified interest in schools. It is up to us to sustain this engagment thru outreach.

Motion carries.

McDaniel: Everyone really looked at their schools in the district and at what would be the best solution for our district.  We are all in this together.

Note: We are moving on to the consent agenda items including the Curriculum and Instruction reorganization:

Report No. 11/12 – 5122 Authorization to Abolish Positions within the Curriculum and Instruction Division, Create Positions and Execute a Transition Plan

An assessment of the Curriculum and Instruction Division was performed to evaluate current organizational and operational structures.  As a result, recommendations for a reorganization of each division were made to reflect best practices to support the district’s strategic objectives, and to streamline existing processes.  The reorganization will increase services delivery to teachers, principals, students, staff, and external stakeholders while being a cost-savings initiative.  A total of 125 positions are recommended for abolishment; two (2) are recommended for reclassification; and 100 are recommended as newly created positions.  The abolishment and/or reclassification of positions, along with the creation of a new set of strategic roles will help advance the capabilities of the divisions in their respective mission to support schools and instruction.  Ultimately, this restructure, along with organizational changes that have already been approved, will transform this division from a tactical, process-oriented culture to a high performing operationally efficient organization.  Attached hereto is a plan containing positions for abolishment and creation by July 1, 2012.

The recommendation is that the aforementioned positions are abolished, created and reclassified and that the attached plan is approved.


All positions have been eliminated in an effort to realign position duties with the current requirements necessary to meet strategic objectives within the Curriculum and Instruction Division.  The realignment is structured to have a significant impact on student learning.  We are committed to providing resources to our schools to ensure their success as we implement the rigorous Common Core Curriculum, new teacher and leader evaluation systems, and the College and Career Readiness Performance Index. This reorganization will require that the Curriculum and Instruction Division is a highly collaborative team focused on providing quality support to our schools.  In total, 125 positions will be eliminated from the effective date of July1, 2012.

Waldon: Birth -5 programs not included in this plan.  This is the basis of our reorginization.  We are a division that wan’t to be held accountable.

Kinnane: This is the first time I’m really seeing this – it all seems pretty drastic to me. I think we have very valuable employees who have offered much to the system and I don’t see their positions reflected here and I don’t know what this means for these people.

Waldon: We have very good people but no over arching structures that define what the nature of their work should be.  These positions support the work that is ahead and we do feel like we have people who have the skill set we need moving forward.  We need to position our employees so that they are not working in silos and better understand why we are doing the work that we are doing.  This aligns us with many other major districts.  I have held back on some positions that I would like to have because I want the Senior Leadership in C&I to make those decisions.

Davis: Every time we have some type of reorg or restructuring we do value your concern for people, but when it comes to how many people will this impact, the structure requires us to get permission to fill positions before we fill positions so we will always be in this position.  We can’t tell you when we abolish positions what’s going to happen to those employees. This is the structure that is set up.  We can go thru if this is a transition process, a RIF process – but  the structure forces us into this each time.

Kinnane: 2 things that stand out are Research Planning and Accountability and Project Grad – there seems to be no positions to take their places.

Davis: With Project Grad we have tried to duplicate in house what others do with Project Grad and this is causing more friction than productivity.  We are wrestling between Project Grad Atlanta on the outside vs what we are doing on the inside.

Waldon: There are still some positions that will exist in RPA but we must do some significant downsizing in that area.  Project Grad at the high school level will not go away.  The support at the h.s. will be retained.  The question we must ask is do we need a program with people devoted to this area.

Davis: Let me put some context around this.  We do have a choice here, one of the choices is delaying this a month and having the new people spell out the lower level jobs in more detail – providing information about who is in the current positions, but the downside to that when we talk about hiring timeframes and some people lose their jobs, we don’t want to take them past their normal timeframe for hiring in public schools.  We want to ensure that everyone has the best chance to find jobs within their field.

Muhammad: Do we have to wait?

Davis: We’ve brought it forth because we would like to move it forward today.

Butler-Burks: It brings some frustration for me that we may not have completed our HR reorganization.  Just seeing a simple organization chart of what this will look like and feel like would help.  Did we do an outside assessment?  How will the Executive directors start in a week or 2 if they are not in our gains and losses tonight.

Davis: We can certainly give you status reports in writing on the IT and HR reorgs and we can give you charts as well.  This is not a fall of th sword timing sort of issue.  We would like to go forward but I will leave it to your comfort level what we do next.  At some point however, we have to get moving.

English: Going back to the pools of people, where are we getting these people from – on the one hand there have been talks of RIF’s,
What will that look like?

Waldon: We don’t believe we will have any problem filling the positions.

Davis: On a national level I get a constant flow of people wanting to work here.  I do want to highlight a difference in practice that the BOE should be aware of.  So what we’ve said to our school leaders is that we will hold you accountable for the outcome of their school, but you are going to choose your own teams.  We will allow principals to build teams. We are raising the bar for our employees.  All must take a writing test to be hired.  We expect better outcomes and this is a start.

E. Johnson: What will be the financial impact?

Waldon: We anticipate some savings.

Moving on with the remainder of the consent agenda.  View it here:

3.01 Report No. 11/12-1139 – Authorization to Approve the State FY ’13 Career Technical and Agricultural Education Textbook Adoption
3.02 Report No. 11/12-1140 – Authorization to Purchase Paint and Painting Supplies from the Georgia State Contract
3.03 Report No. 11/12-1141 – Authorization to Purchase School Buses from the Georgia State Contract

3.04 Report No. 11/12-1142 – Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Purchase Lawson Human Capital Management Software

3.05 Report No. 11/12-1143- Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Purchase Fuel

3.06 Report No. 11/12-1144 – Authorization to Implement a Summer School Program
4.01 Report No. 11/12-4310- Authorization to Enter into and Execute Construction Management at Risk Contract with Winter Construction Company for Maynard Jackson High School Renovations and Modifications Project

Proposals for construction management services have been taken for the Maynard Jackson High School renovations and modifications project. The proposal from Winter Construction Company represents the best value for the district. Design documents are currently being completed by the Architect. The Construction Manager can begin conducting their activities now in preparation for beginning the first phases of the project. The scope of this project is consistent with the updated recommendations per the BuildSmart Facilities Master Plan.


That the Board approve awarding a Construction Management at Risk contract to Winter Construction Company for a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) not to exceed $32,900,000 for total construction of this project.


To provide for the implementation of the Atlanta Public Schools Construction Program consistent with the overall BuildSmart Master Plan and capital construction budget and schedule.


The cost is expected not to exceed $32,900,000 and will be supported by the approved Capital Construction budget (also referenced as the SPLOST budget) approved by Board in December 2011 to accommodate the needs-driven scope of this project.

FUNDING SOURCE:              

Funding for this project is available in the Capital Construction account.

Alvah Hardy: The $39M is a total project budget number for this project.

Davis: I have a problem spending this type of money outside of our community.  I have already asked Ms. Pitts to research local content and local talent involved with these projects.

4.02 Report No. 11/12-4311- Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Construction Management at Risk Contract with R.J. Griffin & Company for the New North Atlanta High School Renovations and Additions Project
1:05 a.m. Motion on floor to move reorganization item for C&I to next month. Muhammad and Meister vote to move on item tonight. Item fails and will be brought back before the BOE next month.
Note: Muhammad wants to know if there is any minority participation in the award of the contract to the construction firm for Maynard Jackson.
Davis:  To my knowledge I don’t know if we’ve had any discussions with this contractor on that and it was not in the bid criteria.  We have no policies on this at this time, but I will bring to you the city’s policy modified in this area.  For future contracts we will be in a much better position to respond.  We are spending money of this magnitude and we have no assurances that they are having any local impact.
Muhammad: Can we hold on this action until the policy is formed?
Davis: I think that would be problematic seeing as how the process would have to start over with new bids.
Muhammad:  To me this is insulting and embarrasing.
Davis:  This doesn’t stop us from having conversations with the contractors and Ms. Pitts will guide my conversations.
McDaniel: Can we ask the contractor at the end of this process about how many local and minority vendors were used?
Pitts: You have to be careful about changing the criteria after the bid is awarded but you can always ask for a report afterward.  You have to be careful basing your criteria on information you cannot use and that you did not request.
Legislative Session now beginning
Chair – McDaniel introduces the meeting.  Vote will take place during this meeting on the amended redistricting proposal.
McDaniel:On behalf of the entire board, I’d like to welcome students and staff back from spring break. Earlier today, April 10th, we had a lengthy committee of the whole session, and we have a full agenda for this legislative meeting. Although everyone’s attention is focused on major districtwide issues, I’d like to pause to acknowledge a few recent accomplishments by those we serve, students:Congratulations to the system’s 40 valedictorians, salutatorians and STAR Students – all of whom were honored at a special ceremony just before the break.And job well done to students from two of our schools that placed in the 2012 Georgia State JROTC Drill Competition in Augusta, Georgia. A regiment from Grady returned with second- and fifth-place trophies while a regiment from Mays returned with a fourth-place trophy.Finally, kudos to our scholar-athletes:The Washington HS boys basketball team advanced to the Final Four this year.And the Grady HS boys basketball team advanced to the third round of the state playoffs.And earlier this school year, the Mays football team made it to the first round of the state AAAA football playoffs.Again, congratulations to students and everyone who supported their achievement – including parents, teachers, coaches, JROTC officers and principals.

Now to tonight’s agenda – this meeting is one of our most important of the year. The board will vote on the administration’s final redistricting and closure recommendations.

Superintendent Davis will summarize his plan, which has been modified based on the public’s feedback over the past few weeks.

Before we hear from him, let me mention that there are a couple of other important matters that the board typically looks at this time of the year:

First, we usually vote on the tentative adoption of the budget for the next fiscal year. We have already convened several Budget Commission meetings with the administration. However, we know that school closures and redistricting will have a huge financial impact on the school system’s planning and budgeting. Therefore, before my colleagues and I officially consider the fiscal year 2013 budget, we need to vote on the final redistricting and closure recommendations.

Second, also in April, the school system usually announces the dates and details for the pre-K lottery. That, too, is on hold temporarily. Presumably, after the board vote tonight, school system officials will know for certain which schools will remain open and will therefore serve as potential pre-K sites. We ask families to stay tuned for more information, and we appreciate their patience in the meantime.

At this time, I will turn it over to Erroll Davis for his remarks and report.


After the board’s vote tonight, the real work will begin:

Building repurposing team (already in place) will meet to determine the best use of closed facilities; the repurposing team includes members from the local school councils, PTAs, NPUs and Atlanta City Council.

School closure transition team – will have its first meeting tomorrow, April 11th.

Fair/open selection of principals and teachers – as part of a broader reorganization of the curriculum and instruction department

Ongoing communication WITH parents, employees and the community at large

There’s been a lot of discussion about how APS got here. Our focus has been on where we GO from here.

If we are going to ensure that our schools are ready for teaching and learning on August 6th, then all of us – as members of the entire school community – will have to come together from this point forward.

When the lives of children are at stake, I am hopeful that the community can and will come together in a powerful and positive way.

As the board chair mentioned, the redistricting process has caused a slight delay in the consideration of the FY13 budget, which begins July 1st.

After we know the final footprint of our schools, we will be able to present a reliable, balanced FY 13 budget to the board.

We anticipate that the board will adopt the tentative budget no later than May 14th.

In the meantime, we continue to monitor closely these last few months in our FY12 budget.

Our expenditures for the current fiscal year are within our budget of $605M.

Looking ahead, we still expect FY13 to be very difficult.

However, we are steadily refining our revenue estimates and identifying cost savings to close our budget gap for next year.

We are also assessing where we need to make investments to enhance instruction and school operations.

We now estimate our budget gap to be ~$47M, down from ~$66M.

And we continue to conserve our fund balance.

By the time FY13 begins, we project that our fund balance will be $64M – which is $15M less than the previous FY but higher than our initial forecast.

April marks the time students sit for major state-required exams:

ES and MS students will take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests from April 17th to the 27th

HS students will take the End-of-Course Tests from April 23rd to May 4th.

And of course, the system will continue to use the rigorous testing protocols that have been in place since the 2010 testing season.

I want to thank the professionals who are serving in our schools.

This school year has been challenged by many distractions.

Despite the distractions, teachers and administrators have worked tirelessly to help prepare our students for these exams.

Their work is much appreciated.

On testing days, I ask that parents send their children to school well rested and encouraged so that they can be confident about delivering their very best.

Again, thank you to everyone.

McDaniel: Can you please bring our consent agenda items?

Davis: Yes I will

Note: Davis reads all of the consent agenda items approved for vote during the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Board votes to approve the modified redistricting proposal.  Towns, DH Stanton and FL Stanton will remain open and school boundaries will be adjusted.  9 Clusters remain. 7 schools will close.

McDaniel: It has come to our attention that the item we pulled from the agenda regarding C&I has a technical issue.

Waldon: Holding off until May is a concern.

Davis: From a technical perspective, the Board meeting occurs before May 15, but if abolishments are done then it will not give employees a chance to interview before they must be offered a contract by May 15th.

Signing off for the night – BOE still discussing logistics of C&I reorganization and Budget meeting.

6 thoughts on “Live Blog: Board of Education Meeting 4/10/12

Add yours

  1. I’m sorry but some of the speakers don’t seem very informed.

  2. Asked on Twitter, what are some other ways the ABE has come up with to save money since these seems to be the driving force or reasoning behind all this.

  3. Agree! Accountablity has to be held for our leadership, teachers, staff, the students and parents. The current ABE members before 2010 were fully aware of all the issues.

  4. Absolutely agree. Many of these board members were sitting quietly as children are failed by the district year after year. Finally, we have someone who will do something about it–make changes–and all he gets is criticism.

  5. Davis is doing the best possible job with a very bad situation. Redistricting was already a year + in progress when he was hired. Board members, many of whom have been on the board for a long time and have had a hand in the current state of the APS are taking him to task, when they should be looking in the mirror.

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