LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Meeting, February 4, 2013

Thank you for following our live blog of the December Board of Education meeting for Atlanta Public Schools.

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Meeting has been called to order.  Superintendent Erroll Davis acknowledges the 16 years of service by Sharron Pitts, General Counsel.  Ms. Pitts has taken a position in Michigan. 


In December, we finally had a month where taxes came in higher than expected.  When it comes to revenues, we’ve raised the forecast for local taxes.  January forecast is now $7M.  We saw a turnaround in our expectations with the December numbers.  Ultimately that positive news is really reflected in a reduced dependence on the fund balance.  That need has dropped to $17M and hopefully as good news continues to come in we will have even less need to rely upon our fund balance.

Expenditures – not much change here.  We are getting better news on our benefit cost and as we move into the fiscal year I’m hopeful that by the end of the year the number of $580M in total expenditures will come down slightly.  We are starting to see some good things happening.  The best part about the expenditures is that we feel better that there is not upward pressure on the salary number….we are confident that it will stay at this number.

We dropped 46 positions off of payroll.  Not necessarily 46 people laid off, but in some areas there was a major re-do in staffing, but more so a change in coding where people were moved appropriately, allowing us to reduce the payroll in December.  We are doing continuous monitoring of payroll coding.  Hourly subs are down slightly from November and both Nov and Dec are below prior years. We are seeing control of staffing, giving us a sense of optimism.

Again, as a result of the change in revenue, the use of fund balance has diminished slightly.  We are still relying on $17M in our savings account to bring this budget home this year.  We have not had a reduction in force during this recession.

As you know we’ve had a decade of not receiving E-rate reimbursements.  We have funding commitment letters for $33.3M.  $16.7 received to date. Submitted letters for $63M.

FY14 Projections:  2 scenarios

FY14 Beginning Balance –
A: $64M – Plus FY14 Projected Rev 547, Less FY14 Projected Expenditures (612)
B: $76M – Plus FY14 Projected Rev 552, Less FY14 Projected Expenditures (605)

FY14 Ending Balance –
A: ($1M) Change in fund balance ($65M)
B: $23M Change in fund balance ($53M)

Important to remember that in FY14 we will not have a back log in e-rate reimbursements.  As s result of these assumptions (above) we are talking about a negative fund balance of $1M in scenario A and $23M in B, significantly below where we need to be.  Both scenarios depict a spending plan that doesn’t work.  That is the starting point of the conversation.  How do we close these gaps?  That is where the staff is now…in discussions on how we close these gaps.  That’s a quick discussion of where we think FY14 will be.


YJohnson: Will we have a presentation on Supplemental Services and how that meshes with the task force for wrap around?

Karen Waldon, Deputy Supt of Instruction: It is on the schedule for March

YJohnson: We had conversation, Mr. Chair, about policy changes…

McDaniel (chair) says that committee will meet on Friday.

H-Kinnane: I understand that some of the employees were coded in one fund and now in general fund, but I want to know if that answers the questions about the unaccounted for / unbudgeted for positions.

Burbridge:  We found that some were in general revenue and should have been in a special revenue fund and we are working with C&I and HR to ensure that we have controls in place so that when we pass a budget for FY14 we have a better headcount.  The fact still remains, we are spending more on salaries this year than originally budgeted.

H-Kinnae: We think that’s going to be an answer entirely? Mostly?

Burbridge:  It will take a greater effort than just coding.  Paying attention to how staffing information is handled, even before we give out contracts for next year.  Some of the factors in the discrepancy in the actuals/budgeted is that we did a very compressed/late budget process after the school redistricting hearings.  That ran right up on the May 15 deadline for contracts.  What we are trying to do is match existing personnel with new hires to ensure that we don’t end up with a surplus of teachers overall.  While we will monitor, we will also make sure we don’t end up with a deficit in critical areas.  By starting earlier with a more traditional process we can put in place the controls so that the actual staffing lines up with the budget.

Muhammad asks if there are priorities for budgeting, particularly safety & security.  Burbridge says that there are priorities and they will be revealed in and informed by the budget discussions.

End of Presentation

“Any Time, Any Place, Any Space” Academic Interventions

How do we respond when our students don’t learn? What do we do when students demonstrate that they have already learned the information being presented?  In C&I we are faced with several realities.  We know that 52% of students who began grade 9 in ’07-’08 graduated.  We know that 15% of our students who drop out are only 3 credits short of what they need for graduation.  We know that 52% of our students who DO graduate, 37% go on to attend a public college in GA and 55% require remediation.  We have identified a solution that will support our students toward graduation.

A response to this challenge is our credit recovery program for those students who desire those opportunities.

We are excited about this opportunity for our students and how it addresses Senate Bill 289 which says that all GA students should have access to courses online and virtual learning.  This will allow our students to receive remediation and reteaching.  Students receiving credit recovery will be allowed to receive some face to face with teachers and also online.  We will offer all courses required for graduation and foreign language.

For students who are doing well and want to get ahead, can attend Atlanta Virtual Academy AVA, giving students and opportunity to take courses not offered in their school or to get ahead.  Currently it will be offered in middle and high, eventually elementary as well.

{Power Point Presentation will be presented later during this meeting}


Courtney English: When will program begin.

Raynise Smith: Pilot program in March. Full program in fall.  We will pull data by school to determine greatest area/school of need and that will determine our pilot site.

H-Kinnane: I can’t quite figure out how it will work.  It will fall on the classroom teacher, who would do this anyway, but this extra…this identifying, intervention, follow up, coming back into the classroom…just how it that going to work in terms of how we support the teacher.

IT: In remediation we are looking to have one person in each course.  The deficiency is how the student is flagged.  The same for accelerated students.

H-Kinnane: I see how it will work in High but in Middle I’ve already seen how the desire to take more rigorous courses is bumping up against PE/Health.

RSmith: We are looking at the zero periods, before school, after school, during tutoring.  We are going to work with our principals around how to create the best schedule that would work for their campus and schedule.

Meister: While I understand it and see the need, but what are we doing to avoid this.  What are we doing in the initial delivery of content?

RSmith: This goes back to tier 1, quality instruction to all students that is differentiated.  That should be happening currently in all classrooms.  What we are looking at is when these interventions are not successful, what then.  We want to make sure what one student receives in one school, another student receives in another school.

Butler-Burks: We have some schools who have done exceptionally well with credit recovery programs.  Did we take some lessons learned from them? How does this affect what they are doing successfully.

RSmith: Yes, we are looking at how we can take those practices and apply to other schools.  We want to honor the work that some schools are doing so we are working with principals who are providing us with feedback as we design our models.

English: I think this is a good first step, but is this enough?  48% of our kids are not walking across the stage.  Given that reality, what’s next.  Particularly as it relates to dropouts, how are we thinking about partnering with the community, the city, service providers to plug that gap.  Finally, acceleration, how does this weave into those students who have demonstrated they’ve learned the standards and are ready to move on?

Waldon:  This is one piece.  Next month when Mr. O’Connor brings his piece, you will see that this is on part of a larger picture.  And no, this alone is not enough.  It’s not a sole solution or silver bullet, but important to moving the work forward.

H-Kinnane: {Asks question about summer school}

RSmith:  Summer school will be aligned to this program.

YJohnson: How has the special needs population been factored into this?

IT: We have staff members representing special needs who are putting the supports in for those students based on their IEP’s.  It is our goal to continue to implement those same accommodations in the remediation piece.

YJohnson:  If there is an IEP, then the process for that child has already fallen short.  What steps would you take specifically for that population with a graduation rate less than 30%.  What would we do differently.

RSmith:  Teachers who are identified to support this program will receive professional development, including special needs.  As create our models we look to create models that are self-pacing.

English: Are these new teachers we’re hiring?

IT: Same teachers with additional responsibilities, with stipends.

Update on Price M.S.

End of presentation.

Chief Sands

This investigation is ongoing and there are some things I cannot discuss at this time.  We are back to business and will have a 5:30 basketball game at Price MS with additional security.  We are having continuous conversations to mitigate any future incidents like this on any of our campuses.  We are looking at advanced technology to better secure our properties.  We are looking at new training for our officers as well as teachers and parents.


Muhammad:  Who has the responsibility of making sure the cameras and metal detectors are operable and who is responsible for checking them?

Sands:  Cameras are web based and we run checks on them everyday.  We have 4,000 cameras, so that doesn’t mean that a camera that is up now won’t be out in 30 minutes, but we do our best to check and maintain those.  We have stock and shipment so that when things go out we have them on hand.  Metal detectors we check every year.  Principals and on site officers check and know to contact my office if there is a need to repair or replace.

Muhammad:  What is the turnaround for a camera/detector?

Sands:  We have a help desk, and if principals call we address the issue immediately.  If we have to outsource it through a vendor, we work through the proper channels to address them. When it comes to security systems it is the priority to address them.  We have communicated this to our principals.  Life systems, such as fire alarms, monitors go out, principals know to contact us immediately.  Number or hours for repair depends on circumstances surrounding the needed repair.

Muhammad:  If we’ve got 800 students at a school and those students have to come thru detectors and be in class at a certain time, do we have the manpower in our schools to assist?  I’m not sure if that’s your question…

Sands:  We have challenges around staffing.  I met with leadership this morning to see how we can remedy these situations.  It will be a join effort between security and C&I.  Look to hear about my recommendations in the next few days.

Muhammad:  Was there an emergency plan in place for Price and was community aware?

Sands:  Correct, there was a plan in place and had it not been the situation would have been much worse.  The school community knew exactly what to do.  The law enforcement community knew exactly what to do.  The parents don’t think we did a good job of passing along that information.  We met with APD the next day to find out, in the event of another emergency, that we don’t have any gaps.  Communication office was there with me, and perhaps next time instead of getting the information out in 30 minutes, its 10 minutes.  While parents may not feel that we communicated in a timely manner, we took care of their kids and our staff.  We need to not only give the information, but make sure that it is accurate.  The process is not meant to be quick, it is meant to be thorough.

Muhammad thanks Sands for the actions taken by the school resource officer and APD.

English: What happened Thursday was terrifying.  How are we thinking about addressing the culture outside of the school.  How are we thinking about addressing those conditions?  I think the action is the symptom of something much greater.

Supt. Davis:  Let me speak to this a little bit.  We have been having conversations with the community for the past year to find out how they would like these issues of security addressed. We have some substantial cultural challenges.  We have policies in place now, and I need to check if they are policies or regulations, governing the movement of parents inside of schools.  We have some schools where parents come in during the morning and walk their students to class and now that is being challenged by parents and we will need to have intense conversations with parents.  We have had principals who tried to address those policies and were almost driven out of town by parents who said they were insensitive.

I draw the analogy to airplane travel.  I have had discussion with principals and there is an interesting discussion about the average anger level of children coming to school, and they seem to be much higher, and are we prepared to deal with angrier children…we have a lot of work to do and we have been working for a year or so.  This incident brings home to me the need for officers to have relationships with children, to understand them and a more continuous presence.  If I felt strongly about the suggestions we have made, I feel more strongly now.  Again, we are going to move as quickly as we can, but any changes that we do make, particularly in the elementary schools – you are going to hear about it. We will engage elementary school parents beforehand, but there are consistent policies that we will need to enforce.  We have policies now on metal detectors and principals believe that they have a license to ignore some of these policies.  This is how we end up with books at some places and class sets at others.  {Mentions uniforms, standards and force of standards}  We have a lot of work to do in this area.

H-Kinnane:  You haven’t mentioned the communication to parents on campus.  We had terrified parents who rushed to school and could not get answers.

Davis:  I empathize with those parents.  I understand their anxiety.  Our methods must always be focused on the safety of the students and staff.  What you always find is that all of your communications is that they can always improve.  We used calling posts, robo calls, emails, text messages, tweets….  We are no where near ready to say this is what we learned yet….we are continuing to learn.

Butler-Burks:  What we have missing is a crisis communication plan.  As board members, we got one email and then nothing else until the next morning at 6:30am.

Davis:  I do want to add one note of caution in this age of instant communication.  We are not allowed to be inaccurate.  Others were.  This started out as a young woman being shot at Carver.  I can’t communicate that. I’m not disputing anything you say, I don’t think we have adequate crisis communication protocols, but our communications will be slower because there is a burden on us to be accurate.  That burden is not shared by others.

Amos: I think we need to gather our parents and speak to them in one place.

Sands:  There were a number of situations that were unfolding as to why the Price parents did not go to the reunification site.  Price’s site was not in the immediate area and were other schools and we were close to our elementary schools being dismissed and under other assumptions in regards to the other schools.  The Atlanta community really came together in this situation, we did not get it all right and we will continue to address those gaps.  Hence forth, when we set up the perimeter, we will usher parents to that waiting place.

Muhammad:  I would also go to the school, but if I had some information while outside I would go to that place.  Every school, school community is different.  {Muhammad asks about a security assessment of each of our schools}

Davis:  That is a good suggestion.  We will take that under advisement.  One of the observations I made at Price….our campuses were not designed to be fortresses.  This school is multiple buildings, outside, people can walk into the courtyard from off the street, its next to woods.  Our schools were designed to be bright, warm, nurturing places.  Each one is going to be unique.

EJohnson: We can talk about security but we need to let people know that nothing is 100% guaranteed.  We need to thank people for the effort they put forth.  I see a lot of sensationalization going on and that put parents into an even bigger panic.  You’re dealing with the news media trying to see who can be more sensational than the next.  And if you get false information out there, you will be criticized for that.  As board members we need to reassure parents that everything that can be done is being done.  All of our schools have a plan.

4:00pm Committee of the Whole Meeting now beginning.

No comments from community.

Superintendent is reading from the consent agenda.

2.01 Report No. 12-13-1720 Authorization to Adopt the 2013-14 and 2014-15 School Calendars (First Reading)


The calendar development process for 2013-14 and 2014-15 included a community-wide survey with approximately 5,900 respondents as well as analysis of student attendance data. As a result of the survey responses, the proposed calendars are consolidated calendars with August start dates. The proposed calendars have been reviewed by a diverse committee representing parents, employees and communities across the city. Feedback from this committee has been incorporated into the proposal. The proposed calendars cover the next two school years to provide advanced planning time for APS employees and families. Frequently asked questions regarding the school calendars are also attached for informational purposes.

Changes from past calendars include the consolidation of all schools to a single calendar as well as changes to the scheduling of some staff work days. For 2013-14 and 2014-15, the superintendent’s proposal provides flexibility to principals and supervisors in the scheduling of one (1) teacher work day and in the scheduling of 200-day and 220-day staff members (e.g. counselors, social workers, assistant principals) outside of the teacher work year. This will allow schools to tailor their staff schedules to best meet the needs of their students and parents.

The 2013-14 calendar also includes four (4) options for furlough days for all employees.


The board should accept the 2013-14 and 2014-15 calendars for first reading.


To set the working and school days for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

Harsch-Kinnane: I am concerned because I expected to see some changes to this calendar since last month after the community meetings and input, and it looks like the same calendar.

Davis: The meetings aren’t the only means we had for receiving recommendations. Not changing it doesn’t mean community comments were ignored. I don’t want to give any impression, because there was no change, that they were ignored.

Butler-Burks: How will these extended breaks affect student learning and instruction?

Rebecca Kaye, Policy office: On Wednesday we had our first meeting with community partners. We had a productive meeting with C&I and a few of our community partners. We asked if these partners would fill in the gaps for these students, and what would that look like. They did anticipate adjusting their schedules to provide opportunities for APS  students depending on the calendar that is approved. We want to ensure that the programs our students are in are complimentary to what we are providing and the direction we are going instructionally for our kids after school and during any breaks we may take.

Meister: Did you discuss transportation at all?

Kaye: It was a topic of discussion. The YMCA said they didn’t have issues with transportation, the city said they had more concerns regarding transportation.

Butler-Burks: I still struggle with this break time. For a single parent 35/week per child is a lot of money for extended times out of school and funding for parents and the agencies. We’ve had this much time and we really don’t have a solid plan on how we can assist parents and students during these extended breaks.

Can this item be pulled from the consent agenda?

Harsch-Kinnane: We heard a lot about why this doesn’t work and the hardships during breaks for families and teachers. I wonder why we didn’t hear some of the comments and some of the things that strike me about this calendar. It’s about days that don’t make sense. I just want to hear from you (Kaye) in terms of hearing those concerns. To Mr. Davis, in terms of the decision to have a calendar that is different and to not have a year round calendar, the other concern is that the system is going through a lot of changes and whether this is time to put forward another change.

Davis: We have to have  a calendar. I will confess that I haven’t been involved in the development of this. Why are the breaks there?

Kaye: It was really what the calendar committee pushed for. This committee has representatives from employee groups, parent groups, cluster groups, etc. What we heard from the calendar committee is that they felt strongly that those breaks needed to be a week long in order to be full breaks. This breaks really came out of the recommendations from the calendar committee. We have higher absenteeism when we have breaks that are short. Having these week long breaks does support student and teacher attendance.

McDaniel: I suggest that the board has a work session on the calendar, whether we pass this now or not for first read. This is not to delay the decision on the calendar, it is to make sure each board member is comfortable with the calendar.

Meister: I would like to add to that I sent an email on the 28th, and I would like to incorporate some of the questions I sent.

Y. Johnson: What would be different about this session than other sessions? What would we do differently?

McDaniel: As board members we have now developed questions of our own or from our constituents, and this would be a time to get these questions answered, since there is some discomfort in where we are. I think this would be a better forum for us to get on the same page. I know there is some time sensitivity on this.

Y. Johnson: So really this is board members presenting questions and trying to get some consensus around the document?

McDaniel: I think this meeting does 3 things: board questions will be answered, we can hear feedback from the community meetings and surveys, and match this calendar against alternative calendars to hear the pros and cons. This would help us debate which calendar is appropriate.

McDaniel: Mrs. Pitts, Can we waive our period of time between the second and final read? Can we have the final read in March? I prefer for us to pull this from the agenda today, meet for a work session for first read, waive the period of time between the second and final read, and present this for final read in March.

Pitts: You would have to vote on that, on a majority vote.

Y. Johnson: Given that we have a plan of action in place, could we not approve it for first read today and then move forward with our plan of action between now and the final read?

McDaniel: I’d like to go ahead and take a vote on whether or not we will pass this for first read now or not.

E. Johnson: I think it’s time for a first read.

Butler-Burks: My suggestion is to pull it from the consent agenda, we vote on it when we get to it, and see where we are.


2.02 Report No. 12-13-1721 Authorization to Revise Policy ABB Board Powers and Duties (First Reading)


The board’s policy review committee met on January 16, 2013 and recommended the attached revision to policy ABB Board Powers and Duties. This revision aligns the voting requirements for board action with the charter.


The board should accept the revision to policy ABB for first reading.


To align the board’s voting requirements for transacting business with the charter.

2.03 Report No. 12-13-1722 Authorization to Revise Policy BBAB Board Duties


The board’s policy review committee met on January 16, 2013 and recommended the attached revision to policy BBAB Board Duties. This revision removes references to board voting requirements that is also contained in policy ABB Board Powers and Duties.


The board should accept the revision to policy BBAB for first reading.


To remove duplicate information from the board’s policies.

 2.04 Report No. 12-13-1723 Authorization to revise Policy BC Board Meetings (First reading)


The board’s policy review committee met on January 16, 2013 and recommended the attached revision to policy BC Board Meetings. This revision removes references to board voting requirements that are also contained in policy ABB Board Powers and Duties.


The board should accept the revision to policy BC for first reading.


To remove duplicate information from the board’s policies.

2.05 Report No. 12-13-1724 Authorization to Revise Policy BBD Board-School Superintendent Relations (First reading)


The board’s policy review committee met on January 16, 2013 and recommended the attached revision to policy BBD Board-School Superintendent Relations. This revision clarifies the board’s expectations for communication from the superintendent related to issues that may generate public attention.


The board should accept the revision to policy BBD for first reading.


To clarify expectations for board communication with the superintendent.

 2.06 Report No. 12/13-5120 Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishments

*One Principal Appointment

2.07 Report No. 12/13-5121 Workers’ Compensation Settlement


Monetary savings can be realized with the settlement of this workers’ compensation claim versus ongoing workers’ compensation costs.


The approval of workers’ compensation settlement.

1Employee      2Age   3Life Exp.    4Liability     5Demand     6Offer        7Present Value        8Savings

#1                 71         15.4           $24,480     $15,000      $7,500          $22,545                  $15,045

1.  Employee                                                                 5.  Amount of settlement requested by employee

2.  Employee’s current age                                        6.  Amount of settlement offered by APS

3.  Projected life expectancy                                       7.  Present Value of Disability Benefits

4.  Anticipated disability benefits                               8.  Monetary savings APS will realize based on

to be paid over the life of the claim                            settlement of the claim (#7-#6)


To effect savings by settling workers’ compensation claim.


Cost to the District of $7,500


General fund account number 100-7650-2500


Report No. 12/13-1128 – Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide Credit Recovery Content Services


The Atlanta Public Schools procurement services department solicited vendors to provide credit recovery content services.  Five (5) proposals were received and evaluated (list of bidders attached).


That the superintendent be authorized to enter into and execute a contract with Connections Education, LLC to provide credit recovery content services. This contract shall be for one (1) year with four (4) one-year available options to be exercised at the discretion of the superintendent.  This contract is conditional upon the firm’s ability to comply with requirements set forth in the solicitation document.

{Discussion by board, Dave Williamson, CIO and Supt. regarding whether the two platforms will speak easily to one another, virtual learning and Infinite Campus}

Report No. 12/13-1129 – Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide an Online Learning Management System


The Atlanta Public Schools procurement services department solicited vendors to provide an online learning management system.  Four (4) proposals were received and evaluated (list of bidders attached).


That the superintendent be authorized to enter into and execute a contract with Black Board, Inc. to provide an online learning management system. This contract shall be for one (1) year with four (4) one-year available options to be exercised at the discretion of the superintendent.  This contract is conditional upon the firm’s ability to comply with requirements set forth in the solicitation document.


Before the vote, Muhammad asks Karen Waldon to address the principal selection process and how/why decisions have been made.  Muhammad says that there is still a sense of uneasiness in some communities

Waldon: There were a number of questions asked that evening.  We tried to get stakeholders to understand that there is no one size fits all for a school leader.  Large number of vacancies in the district at one time didn’t make it easy.  We want to, as much as we possibly can, bring solid recommendations to the superintendent.  One of the items that HR supported the community panels on was the opportunity for the community panels to design questions specific to their schools.

Muhammad:  There was a great deal of dialogue after you left the Hope-Hill meeting.  The concern was how much of a role does the community play in that selection.  How much does their input matter.  If they feel like this principal works well with them and the staff and is inclusive, and they are satisfied, how much does that matter?

Waldon: What we know is when the state organized the Local School Councils some years ago, one of their responsibilities was for them to provide input into the principal hiring process.  There are certain types of questions that a community panel can design and get responses to, and then there are some things very specific, in the next level of the interview process, that are very specific to instruction.  Their role is to provide input into the next stage of the process.

YJohnson:  Is there any opportunity to have some education around principal selection or manage the expectation?

Mr. White, HR Director: Part of the process is a panel orientation where we share expectations.  We share with them that their level, level 3, in the panel process is not to select the principal but to give input into the principal selection process.  One thing that concerns me is that when they leave they think they’ve actually selected a principal.  We don’t do the summary scoring while they are there and they don’t get to see the rankings or scorings.  The HR reps and others sit down and score and do summation.  Then they rank according to score.  Then those individuals then move forward to level 4.   I’m concerned when they say “our candidate hasn’t been selected.”

YJohnson:  I would just encourage you to do that as much as possible.

White:  I do understand.  They actually do identify the finalists that move forward in the process.

Muhammad:  If a school has had 2-3 interims are we looking at who would be a proper fit with the next interim.  People get frustrated (with the turnover).

Waldon:  We bring the Exec Dir’s of schools in to talk about who might be a suitable interim.  We are grateful for those who step up to the plate, but once you step into those shoes, they find they may not be as strong in some areas as others.  Their (interims) leadership is on display.  One of the challenges in our district is that our core of assistant principals are good people, but what they are lacking across the district is the instructional piece.  Finding principals out of the AP ranks is a challenge.  Many times they have not had a lot of exposure to the instructional piece of the district.  This is unchartered waters.  There is not a district in the country we can look to and see that they are filling as many principal vacancies at one time.  We try as hard as we can to identify those who would be appropriate.

Davis: We need to take this all the way back to the CRCT scandal, unfortunately.  In my first 2 months I had to replace 41 of 100 principals, with no perm structure in C&I.  It was clear after that year that many wanted out, it was not the job for them.  And for some it was not the job for them even though they might not have shared that view.  That brings you to the 12-13 year, where again we for the most part got most of those 40 internally and we didn’t go to the bottom of the barrel but that depleted what people we thought were ready or in training.  We’ve taken the view that this is one of the most important jobs we do and its important to get the right person in there.  We do want our principals to be instructional leaders.  I don’t know if that is a new dimension or if we are simply putting more emphasis on that.  As a member of the community, I certainly can comment on community engagement skills, I will have difficulty commenting on technical leadership skills.  It is critical that as we transition to the Common Core that we have principals that are teacher-leaders.

Muhammad:  {Hope Hill} The community is trying to wrap its arms around the school and its hard to do that when you don’t have stability.  If we’re going to be changing people every year, every 2 years…. This is not the only school, there are others.

Butler-Burks: What I want to confirm is not just the LSC but a community based panel, but external principal.  I want to confirm that.

White: Yes {names committee members}

Butler-Burks: You talked about the scoring piece and my question is about the external component of the scoring.  We have the scoring and its tallied externally.  Then the members get together and say what they scored.  Then we never communicate back to them about the score.  Then they don’t see a name on the end list of names.

White:  I’m concerned with sharing those scores because there is another level in the process.

Butler-Burks: What about “we’ve identified x number of candidates to move to the next level.”

White:  Yes, we do need to communicate back that there are candidates moving on to the next level.

Muhammad:  Can you do the reverse? Vet the candidates first then let the community see the best of the best?

White:  That is the criticisms I heard from panels in the past, that there were not enough qualified candidates put before them.

H-Kinnane: Yes they want to see quality candidates, but not viable candidates, but they are slated to go to other schools or more likely to go to other schools.

White:  I think this was a unique situation.  With the number of positions that needed to be filled and candidates….

English:  This HR piece is a huge bucket, just as a suggestion, maybe we can find some time to work session this. I have tons of questions just from tonight.

Amos: There is a motion to pull the calendar item from the agenda and move to discussion and action.

Motion passes.

Amos announces that the BOE will now recognize the counselors of Atlanta Public Schools.  8 school counselors take the stage and shake hands with board members in recognition of school counselors week.

Supt. Davis:  Another critically important position is that of school principals.  Last month, the BOE approved appointment of 18 principals.  Tonight I will be recommending one other principal.  I’ll ask Ms. Waldon to introduce the principals who were approved last month.

Schools with permanent leaders:
Benteen Elementary
Dobbs Elementary
DH Stanton Elementary
Connally Elementary
Brown Middle
Inman Middle
Garden Hills Elementary
Smith Elementary
Boyd Elementary
Scott Elementary
Towns Elementary
Usher-Collier Heights Elementary
West Manor Elementary
Woodson Elementary
Deerwood Elementary
Fickett Elementary
Humphries Elementary
Forrest Hill Academy

5:42pm  BOE has adjourned to executive session.  Committee of the Whole meeting has been suspended.

7:07pm  The Committee of the Whole meeting has been suspended, however the public comment period is beginning.


Verdallia Turner: Some of the barriers that prevent teachers from teacher include cell phones.  They are asking that all cell phones be banned.  Student bullying, inadequate student home, ineffective policies and paperwork all hinder their ability to teach.  The pendulum has swung too far to the left and the right.  The problem is not unique to Atlanta, but Atlanta can lead the state.  We believe in choice, but the only choice our children should have is a great Atlanta Public School system and a greater Atlanta Public School system.  The question was asked, “Why was there a gun at school?”  The question should be “Why does your child have a gun?”

Bunche Middle Employee:  We have strong leaders and I just ask that the one that we have, we can keep. {Speaks about keeping the current leadership at the school}

Bethune Elementary Parent:  We have no updates on current PTA balances and we are denied access to the funds to plan events.  Funds are being collected from parking at the GA World Congress Center but we don’t know how much is being collected and given to the PTA.  We don’t what we should have gotten when the schools merged like counselors and mediators to keep it from being another situation like Price.

Nathaniel Dyer: I’m here to talk about the lack of confidence we have in Price Middle School.  It’s the thing I’ve been saying time and time again.  You’ve got to get a grip on discipline.  The bullying gets stronger and stronger and the real bully is the teacher and administrator who didn’t intervene in the situation.  To restore confidence we need to remove the principal.  Send him on the road with his pension.  This situation didn’t just happen overnight.  This is more than a gunshot.  I went over there, the police officers were totally rude.  They were sitting by the car, bad-mouthing the parents.  I’m standing by a young man who was right by the shooting and he said “They asked us some questions and sent us away.”  I went to Carver today. Language out the wag-zoo. We create propoganda so that no one will feel any emotion for our children.  Mr. Davis I need you to pop up on these schools, I’ll ride with you.  You can make a change.  If these people are scared of the children, they need to take a hike. This is a school system for these kids to learn.  Let’s fire the principal and restore confidence.

Bunche Middle School Parent:  I’ve been a part of the community for 18 years and I’m willing to do my part to help this generation.  I think we have strong leadership and it needs to stay there.

Bunche Middle School Parent:  Please leave our interim principal.  Our principal has gained a lot of control over at Bunche.  He has gained a lot of authority back in that school.  The teachers are pumped and students are ready to learn.  I’ve been at lunch for the last 6 years and there have been situations before where the kids don’t feel comfortable but now they feel comfortable.

7th Grade Bunche Student:  Please leave Mr. Watkins as principal at Bunche.  Mr. Watkins has turned the school around.  We have more men visible in the school all day.  The morale is back. Please help us to continue to build a better Bunche.

7th Grade Bunche Student:  I am proud to be here to speak on behalf of Bunche students.  Our principal has helped us to achieve our goals.  He has been making our school a better community.  I am asking the Board to help us build a better Bunche.

Cynthia Dumas, PTSA President at Bunche Middle:  I invite you to see the great things going on at Bunche.  What we would like to see is stability in our school.  The climate is different when you step into the building.  We have mentoring groups…why would we want to change from the person who has made this climate.  We are working together to build a better Bunche.  Please consider what you have heard and will hear about Bunche Middle School.

LSC Chair of Bunche Middle:  I am happy to say since the last meeting I have had a meeting with Ms. Waldon.  What we would like to do is meet with you Mr. Davis, Ms. Johnson to make sure that the process and what happens in the building work together.  We are building a better Bunche and we would like to see that continue.

Bunche Middle Parent:  Bunche has gone through a transformation over the last 6 months.  Bunche is trending in the right direction.  It would be wrong for you to remove the interim principal.  We have to put our kids back at the forefront of education and do what is good and right, day in and day out.  I would hope and encourage you to do what is good and right for all of our students, but for me personally, what is right for Bunche.

Community members speak about the need for better safety within the district.

Additional parents request that the principal from Bunch Middle is allowed to stay on as the principal.



Motion to approve the calendar for first read. Motion passes.  The board will take up the calendar for first read and have a work session surrounding it later this month to discuss additional items.

Item 6.01  Motion to approve the Proact Search For to conduct the superintendent search.  Motion passes.

Item 6.02  Next up is the approval of the superintendent search committee composition.  Board chair McDaniel reads the list of names.  He suggests taking top 3 of list and move up the first attorney listed as the BOE wanted to include someone with a legal background.

These 4 would represent the areas BOE members wanted represented.  McDaniel says that parent community groups will come together to choose a representative.  By the end of next week all names will be selected.

Motion carries to appoint the first 4 members of the committee.

6.03 Cascade Elementary School Renaming Task Force Recommendation
There were a number of folks who were asked to participate on the committee, for example Keisha Bottoms sent a representative, parents and leaders.  We met and we have respect for Dr. Lowery, however the proposed change would not comply with board policy.  The committee’s recommendation is that we not move forward with the renaming at this time.  Motion on floor. Discussion.

H-Kinnane:  To overturn the policy, the 5 year policy, then we as a board could have overturned it, so my question is whether the process had its due course.

YJohnson:  At the meeting we had a full discussion and it was agreed that the committee did not want to go forward.  The committee met on the 16th and the comment period was posted to end January 31st.  There were some comments.  One was, there was no input from the community as it relates to that – no one had reached out to the community.  One comment was “We feel very strongly about the history of our community and we don’t think this is an appropriate change.”

Amos:  I would question that it came from the committee because I am not sure that there was a quorum present.  It was sort of decided by people in the room that we would not go forward because it was known that a board member would vote no.  It was surely not the committee that made the decision to stop the process.

Muhammad:  There seems to be confusion around this.  Let me ask this, how did this come to the committee?  If the community and groups were taken aback, how did it come to the community.

YJohnson:  I cannot speak to how it came to the floor, but there was a letter addressed to Mr. Amos.  Frankly I was taken aback as well.  I learned of it here on the dais.  As the policy stands, there is no specific outline as to who will be represented on the committee. It didn’t meet the policy, there was no compelling reason to waive the policy and there are board members who would vote no.

McDaniel:  The committee’s decision is to not to waive the policy that would lead to the renaming.

YJohnson:  The committee’s decision was not to go forward because it did not meet the policy and there was no compelling interest presented to waive the policy.

Davis;  I had one question, based on my ignorance of this process.  How many people does it take for you to convene a committee?

YJohnson:  When I have done them in the past, we have convened a committee based on people who have shown an interest.  Sometimes its students, South Atlanta comes to mind, the NPU is actually who brings it.  Once we get the written request, we send something out to the school/community.

Davis:  The threshold that kicks off the work can be as few as one person?  And you’re ok with this?

YJohnson:  Yes, and a suggestion was made by a committee regarding policy moving forward….

English:  Sounds like we need to take a look at the policy.

Sharron Pitts reads the policy into record.

McDaniel:  There should be more ways that are more indicative…not one person waking up in the morning and wanting to change the name of the school.

Muhammad:  There was in the past.  We would publicize how long people had to submit names.  The public would comment for 30 days and the committee would come back.  It’s fairly simple.

Dr. Grant:  I want to add further clarity to the superintendents question.  The letter was put forth by the Cascade Elementary PTA.

Butler Burks asks if YJohnson can separate her passion from the work that has to be done around this issue.  She answers yes.

Motion on the floor is not to move forward with the name change.

Robust discussion taking place around whether or not the committee should move forward with exploring other names for the school.  YJohnson is clear that the community has not been engaged in this name change conversation to date.

YJohnson:  One of the reasons in the committee that I heard that they did not want to engage in a process that was not supported by the community was that it seemed to be a waste of time when it would not move forward with the BOE.  We left the comment period open.  We got a total of 4 comments.

Butler Burks cites the history of the renaming of Usher to Usher-Collier Heights and how that was a lengthy process that dealt with historic designation, NPU’s etc.

Amos:  I think we’ve put a shadow over the process by people feeling that it was not going anywhere.  I say we open it back up for 30 days and allow the community to comment without that shadow.

Amos asks that the statement serve as a motion.  Withdraws when he is reminded that another motion is on the floor.

YJohnson reads letter from neighbor.  One of the 4 comments received.  Muhammad withdraws her motion.

Muhammad:  I believe the members that represent their districts represent the pulse of the community.  Because of that, based on this representative, made up of the community surrounding the area, that it is their recommendation not just hers that they do not move forward.  I will withdraw my motion.

McDaniel asks if Amos would like to put forward a motion.

Amos moves to reseat the committee and open up the 30 day comment process again.  Then for the committee to meet again and report out.  There are titles tied to the people serving on the committee.  2nd by Butler Burks.

Butler-Burks: What was the make-up of the committee?

YJohnson:  Some of the people seated were District 2 people, not District 6.  It was suggested that it was adjacent but its not, adjacent was Butler Burks’ community.  I have no idea why Mr. Amos even served as co-chair of this community.  There is a list that I’m happy to work up with Dr. Grant that is District 6 folks.

Motion to reseat the committee carries 7-2.

YJohnson: My concern is that when you don’t like a particular outcome you hold off on an item until you can get the policy changed.

McDaniel:  There seems to have been some confusion.  It seems appropriate to me that we would try to solve that issue first.

English:  The reason I made the recommendation is because from your own committee, members seemed to say they wanted to see some policy changes around this issue.

30 day clock will begin again on Cascade renaming committee.  Item of renaming will be added to the agenda of the policy committee.



7.01 Report to rescind a total of 3 furlough days for designated instructional and support staff; establishing these days as critical work days for the common core training.

As we all know, GE has given us a grant to fund teacher training.  This gift will make up for the 3 furlough days for instructional staff.

No discussion.

8:52 Committee of the Whole Meeting is adjourned.

The legislative meeting will begin shortly.  Please join us on Comcast Channel 22 to view the results of the Legislative Meeting.

Good night.


One thought on “LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Meeting, February 4, 2013

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  1. Just to make sure…this was the February 6 meeting? Thanks!

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