LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting – April 30, 2012

Please follow this live blog for updates from today’s Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting.

3:25pm Waiting for BOE members to complete a budget meeting prior to this legislative meeting.  Updates coming shortly.

3:46pm Board members are entering the room.

3:58  Meeting has started.  Debate taking place about whether to allow speakers who did not call in early to address the board.  Question is whether changing the rules now will have impact on future meetings.

Ms. Johnson: We have had this conversation before.  My concern is that if that is the rule and others have been made to comply with that rule, its unfair to those turned away at other members.  We have a limited amount of time.  I move that we do not extend the number of speakers beyond what we have now and that we commit to putting it at the bottom of future notices so that the public is aware of the policy.

Vote taken.  5 for, 4 against.  Motion passes.

Speakers now addressing the Board.

Suzanne Mitchell:  Good afternoon.  I live in the Summerhill community and we are currently zoned to Cook ES which is closing at the end of the school year.  After 6 months of our community working with APS we were thrilled to see we had been zoned to Parkside.  That was approved by a 9-0 vote and we are hoping that we will remain at Parkside.  I have provided a handout to each one of you about the 3 schools.  We are at Cook and it is ranked in the 8th percentile of the state which is dismal.  We were then zoned to Parkside in the 42nd percentile, which is better but Parkside still has work to do.  Now we are zoned to D.H. Stanton which is in the 6th percentile.  We are the only neighborhood being zoned down.  Other neighborhoods from Cook are not being zoned in this way.  We are saying no.  Summerhill deserves a performing school.  We have seen neglect and to continue with this neglect is almost criminal. These children in these communities are being shuttled around like garbage.  Many of the families in our neighborhood have no advocates and I’m asking you to put the children of Summerhill first instead of just using us to fill buildings.

Jonathan Mikel:  Education chair for Organized Neighbors of Summerhill.  From the beginning of the redistricting process we have supported the closure of Cook Elementary because we were sure Summerhill would be redistricted to Parkside.  Unfortunately there is the belief that Stanton cannot stay open without Summerhill.  Keeping Stanton open is the desire of the Peoplestown community.  (reads a series of articles/headlines of promises to improve Stanton).  Broken promises.  Summerhill needs a school with proven results and has been proven to provide a quality education.  Some have said Summerhills Parkside position is a vocal minority and this is not the case.  Today you have the opportunity to mend broken promises to Summerhill.  Keep Stanton open, but zone Summerhill to Parkside.

Richard ?:  This has been a long process for Summerhill.  Throughout the process we have had the same thing, that all of our students in the Jackson cluster deserve the opportunity to succeed today and in the future.  We provided feedback with passion.  At the Cook closing I stood up with my 4 year old and said “Look at this guy, he deserves a good school now.”  We said that if you are going to uproot our community one more time, give our kids a good school.  Give them the resources they need to succeed now.  We have consensus in our community.  The consensus is that Peoplstown is a part of the Jackson cluster and that Summerhill will be zoned to Parkside.  This is the opinion of a large community in a large portion of Atlanta.  I’ve spoken in the press, on television and every single time the message is the same.  Give our children the right to an education and give them the resources to be educated today and in the future.  Please keep your promises.

Josh Murtha:  I am the President of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill.  With the closure of Cook we were given the opportunity of a better education.  Now Stanton is no longer closing.  We wish Peoplestown well in building their school.  But what about the students currently attending Cook? Don’t they deserve a better performing school now?  There is no reason why both neighborhoods can’t win.  We are here today to support Summerhill to Parkside.

Eugene James:  Greetings.  Thank you all for serving as BOE members.  I don’t envy the place where you are today. I’ve been in Summerhill for 12 years.  I am fortunate enough to have one child attending Parkside right now.  A lot of parents are saying “why are you fighting so hard, all you have to do is do an administrative transfer.” I have to correct them and say it’s not about my child, its about every child in the community.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with children at Parkside.  Parkside is not an outstanding school, its a great school, but I think if the neighbors of Summerhill got in there we could make it a great school.  Let’s give all the children in Parkside a better opportunity.

Mrs. James:  Right now we don’t have a solution for our daughter to be at Parkside.  We have no place for our daughter to go.  We definitely are not sending her to D.H. Stanton.  As we have had the opportunity to meet our neighbors in Summerhill I’ve been able to inform our community.  I am speaking for the single moms, for the parents who can’t leave their jobs to do this.  I’m here to say Summerhill deserves better.  We’re talking about buildings but it really starts with the children.  I’m an active parent at Parkside.  I’m a den mom in the Cub Scouts, volunteering monthly.  It’s not just me.  There are others in my community who will put forth the effort to take that school to another level.  I hope you can do what is right for our children.  The community of Summerhill deserves to be zoned to Parkside.

Kenyatta Mitchell:  I’ve been in Summerhill for 11 years.  I come before you as a person who does not have children.  I stand before you because I was able to receive a proper education.  We’ve heard over and over again that people believe that its only a minority that want to move to Parkside but that’s not true.  We understand that everyone can’t take off from work.  There are many parents who have to take a bus or train and cannot allot that time.  I also want to speak about where you all would send your children. Would you send your child to a school that is in the lower percentage of Georgia?

Alfred Brooks:  I am the education chair for SAND.  I am asking you to bring the entire neighborhood of Custer/McDonough/Guice into Benteen.  We are the only neighborhood being divided.

Ms. Whitehead:  I’m speaking on behalf of zoning students.  As board policy says, it should have the least impact on students. These students should have the most familiar faces as possible.  Its unfair to teachers. I am speaking on behalf of teachers.

Mr. Dean:  Good afternoon.  Ladies and gentlemen of the Board, I wish you would have allowed the entire cluster to speak, but since you didn’t I will ask the friends of Stanton to stand.  Let me just say that this is an awkward position to be in.  I’ve gone to just about every meeting.  I’ve heard some comments that have taken me back to the civil rights movement.  Some comments that reminded me of integrating schools in Boston, in Alabama, University of GA where I heard parents say I don’t want to go to “that school” send my kids to “somewhere else.”  I’ve worked hard in Summerhill to make a community where people would reach back and pick up others.  Its not Peoplestowns fault or Summerhill’s fault.  Now we have citizens talking against each other… “my school” “my children.”  I had a child who didn’t want to go north at Northside.  I sent another child to schools in the southside district.  What I want and ask you to do is to make every school a great school.  You should vow today to never entertain the conversation again that we have had to entertain today.  (applause).  Keep Stanton open and allow parents from Summerhill and Peoplestown to stand together and make Stanton a great school.

Ms. Williams:  Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today.  I am a 1976 graduate of Harper Archer High School.  I am appalled that Archer has had 15 principals in 10 years.  Grady has had the same principal for 20 years.  All of those principals could not have been that bad.  How dare you continue to upset the learning environment of our students.  We have the support of students, parents, community members, alumni, churches and others.  With their continued support we are determined to give our school the support it needs to achieve academic excellence.  We are sick and tired of our students being treated like 2nd class citizens.  We do not need anymore chaos or instability.  Please vote to keep our current principal at our school.  Our kids deserve an opportunity.

4:32  Comment period has ended.

Davis:  There are 97 students in Summerhill that went to Cook.  There are another 31 that go to other APS schools (total of 128).  There are a total of 159 in the zone in the community.  The difference between 128 and 159 go to non APS schools.

English:  What if all 97 of those kids went to Stanton, what would be the enrollment.

Davis:  Stanton absent Summerhill would have a population of 230.  175 from Peoplestown and 55 out of zone students who presently choose to go to Stanton from out of zone.  From a planning perspective we would assume that 128 would attend in the fall, making it 258 enrolled for 2012-2013.

E. Johnson:  If its my child I want to put him in a school that is performing.  What is the downside of closing Stanton and the upside of keeping it open.

Davis:  I just passed out to you which is a list of all schools under 450 students in our system.  My original proposal was to close 13 schools leaving us with 8 schools in the district under 450 students.  So I made a series of recommendations after the court of public opinion rejected this proposal for the closing of 10 schools.  Leaving us with 17 schools under 450.  Then we went to 7 schools closing leaving us with 25 schools under 450.  What in many ways you have done is to not put in place a 10 year decision.  It could be as short as a 3-4 year decision before you will have to revisit this again.  If we have success with the cluster concept, the last column on this list has the number of out of zone transfers – if all of these schools start to go to their zoned schools I’m not quite sure how this will all shake out, but my sense is that some of the small schools could be in danger of viability.  Each of our smallest schools has less than 300 students presently.  I have made recommendations.  My recommendation I left on the table was to close 10 schools.  I understood the concerns with the 13 and I will stand by that recommendation.  But as I said at the meeting I will make whatever this board decides to do work.  The fewer we close the fewer resources we have to deploy.

Our present budget tries to meet our decision to put AP’s in ever school.  That one act just about consumes all of our savings of our school closures.  We intend to still increase the services we are giving to our Title I schools. I hope that this data sheds some light on the subject.

4:41pm

Butler-Burks:  I’ve been reading the emails as they come in and some of my misinformation has been corrected over the past week.  I would like to hear from Ms. Muhammad about her thoughts.

Muhammad:  I’ve pretty much bombarded the Supt’s office with thoughts.  What I hoped for is the same things the community hoped for. That they have an opportunity to have good schools in the community.  D.H. wants to stay open.  When I brought this at the last meeting my goal was to let the community be heard.  The Supt. has revisited this and has brought us his recommendation.  I’ve sent messages about how we can do things differently.  I think we’ve exhausted those and he has settled where he has settled.

H-Kinnane:  When we chose to keep Stanton open that was based on things we heard from Stanton. I never heard that it was contingent upon other neighborhoods attending.  Summerhill was put into Parkside.  What we heard from Stanton was information about future numbers or unknown future numbers before we brought another community period in to them.  What are the Peoplestown numbers?

Davis:  There are only 175 Peoplestown residents put back into Stanton.  That is not the entirety of what previously was in Stanton.  We have about 35-40 students in Grant Park, that we’ve left in the Grant Park area.  They were left in GPark so that all of GPark could attend the same school.  When we talk about repopulating a school I want you to know that I have not repopulated it with everyone that was in it before.  As I said, without SHill you will have a 230 student school.  It will be the smallest elementary school that you have in the system.  We would move some pre-k into there, probably 2 classes representing 40 students getting it up to 270 in the building.  Stanton has a 726 capacity.  So if you do not move any more students in there, you are talking 230 elementary students in a 730 capacity school.

H-Kinnane wants more information.

RPA representative now speaking: It is not going to get anywhere close to the 700+ capacity.  The number will not get to 500 or 600.

Davis:  The impact of more students in the zone utilizing the school will be a greater impact than growth rate in the school.  Of the zoned students, 58% of them use the school.  If we can get a significant movement in that, it will create a higher increase than normal gross.  The Summerhill usage of schools is a lower percentage than Peoplestown usage.

Muhammad:  Can Summerhill hold Parkside?

Davis:  Parkside has a planning capacity of 682 based on 21 children per class.  31 classrooms plus 8 “other” classrooms.  Here is the challenge about projecting Summerhill to Parkside.  You could see a number as low as 97 moving over there.  But remember there are 31 other students in the community going to other APS schools, you could eventually get 128 going with 159 in the community.  If 128 went, that would put Parkside at 704.  Could be accommodated with 1:23 student ratio.  Another hard look at Parkside and you see 200 out of zone transfers to Parkside.  Zoned kids = 535.  If you took Parkside’s zoned students plus Summerhill you would not max out the capacity.  The answer is, yes they could go if you make that decision.  If you do make that decision you are talking about a small group at Stanton of 230 people.

Y. Johnson:  The whole purpose of the redistricting was to have equity in our lines.  Is Parkside over capacity in year one?

Davis:  Yes, but over the next couple of years we would not allow more transfers into Parkside.  Parkside would be manageable.

Courtney:  How would this impact Parkside’s Pre-K program now?

Davis:  They have 3 Pre-K units.  Even with redistricting it would be problematic to maintain 3.  We will keep a minimum of 1 and see if we can get 2.  If you vote on the redistricting we will have to reduce the pre-k capacity at Parkside, but of course that doesn’t mean students will move to the new pre-k classes at other schools.

English:  We have set a precedent as to how we approach rezoning children into lower performing schools.  We’ve already demonstrated a willingness to pay attention to this.  One of the standards as we approach this work is “would we send our child to this school” and at any school where the answer is no, we pledge to make it better.  I would advocate to make this a good school for Peoplestown.

Muhammad:  One of the neighbors asked why Summerhill was being zoned to Parkside.

Davis:  It sits on top of it and Stanton will be 230 without it.

Muhammad:  I’ve seen mailings about “keeping our promise.”  What promise has been made?

Davis:  I don’t put a lot of stock in “lower performing schools.”  Cook and Stanton are what I like to call “within noise level.”  They certainly don’t compare to Parkside.  But Summerhill students have never been to Parkside.  They only appeared when I recommended closing 10 schools.  That’s the only time you them going to Parkside.  I’m not that swayed by the concept of “promises” or “lower performing schools.”  There is room at Parkside if you choose to move them there.  DH Stanton’s community is highly committed to making their school work.  We need to make sure that this commitment that was espoused at a meeting translates into real change and I know we can make that happen.  But one must question how robust your program can be at a very small school.  The programming options for very small schools turn out to be less than for larger schools.  I don’t want the Stanton and Peoplestown community to work under the assumption that we are setting this school up for failure.  We don’t want that for them.  Interesting is that 55 students choose to attend Stanton for out of zone. But there is risk.  If we can see that the school’s numbers are shrinking we can monitor that by putting in Ms. Muhammad’s suggestion of putting early learning communities in there as we have at Dunbar.  There is just a risk.  This is a decision that the board in its wisdom will have to make and whatever you decided we will make it work.

Muhammad:  The administrative transfers were an issue that was brought up.  If this happens will Summerhill be allowed to transfer in?  What about grandfathering?

Davis:  Grandfathering policy will remain in effect.  Policy says that if there is room, admin transfers must happen.  People will be allowed to transfer, but we will now look forward 5 years moving forward and if it looks like capacity will be reached in that time we get to the end of 5 years we will not allow new students to enroll from out of zone.

McDaniel wraps up the conversation with comments about making all schools great schools.

A vote yes would be to send Summerhill to Stanton.  A vote no would be to accept the recommendation from the Superintendent.

Muhammad:  Does the existence of Stanton depend on Summerhill going to Stanton?

Davis:  Certainly Stanton would exist but it would have 230 students in a 730 capacity school.  But it would be a school at risk from the very beginning.  Kennedy has 191 students in a building of 924 and we are going to repurpose that building.  It would be 230 without Summerhill.  If 128 who are going to APS schools now, that would go to 358.  Still a small school, but a small school with a greater viability.  The risk is that there are only 150+ in the Peoplestown Community.

English:  I would like to amend the Supt’s recommendation to zone Summerhill into Parkside.

Davis:  If you would suggest this, I would ask you to amend the motion to amend the Stanton boundary from the top of Summerhill to the bottom of Summerhill.

English:  I am moving, if I understand you correctly to move the boundary from the top of Summerhill to the bottom of Summerhill.

E. Johnson:  I will 2nd the motion.  But I’m concerned about the kids at Stanton.

McDaniel:  Any further discussion.

6 in favor of Mr. English’s motion.

Motion on the floor to move as appended.

Motion now carries.  Summerhill will now be added to Parkside Elementary.

Modification of boundaries for our single gender schools has passed.

Karen Waldon will not present the curriculum and Instruction reorganization plan.

Davis:  I want to make clear that this is the organizational structure that we as a leadership team will want to put in place.

Waldon:  Mr. Chair and Board, we appreciate  the opportunity to present our recommended restructuring.  We believe that this re-org will accomplish several major goals.  It will streamline our goals and better align our services and support as we transition.

(NOTE:  Mr. Waldon’s full report will be posted on this blog tomorrow)

The slides on the screen are far too tiny to see from the audience.  Updates will be made as to the Board’s vote on this agenda item, as well as other agenda items tonight.  This concludes our live blog for tonight.

UPDATE: 5/1/12

The Board of Education voted to pass –  Report No. 11/12-5123 – Authorization to Abolish Positions within the Curriculum and Instruction Division, Create Positions and Execute a Transition Plan

THE SUPERINTENDENT REPORTS:

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 service delivery to teachers, principals, students, staff, and external stakeholders while being a cost-savings initiative.  A total of 198 positions are recommended for abolishment; seven (7) are recommended for reclassification; and 112 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.  This recommendation is a cost-neutral initiative, having no impact on the General Fund Budget.  Attached hereto is a plan containing positions for abolishment and creation by July 1, 2012.

RECOMMENDATION:

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

REASON:

To align position duties and responsibilities to achieve optimal efficiency and performance.

View the Curriculum and Instruction presentation by clicking on the graphic below (very large file):

One thought on “LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting – April 30, 2012

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  1. Which 3 board members voted against moving Summerhill to Parkside?

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