LIVE BLOG: May 6, 2013 Board of Education Meeting

Thank you for following our live blog of the May  Board of Education Meeting for Atlanta Public Schools.

View today’s agenda here:

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The meeting will begin soon.

2:20pm – Meeting called to order by BOE chair Reuben McDaniel.  This is a work session with Chuck Burbridge, CFO giving a brief financial report.


Summary of FY 2013 Expenditures

General Fund

Beginning Balance
FY 12 Actual $79.2, FY 13 May Forecast $80.9, FY 13 Budget N/A, April Forecast N/A, FY 12 Actual N/A
Ending Balance FY 12 Actual $80.9, FY 13 May Forecast $69.5, FY 13 Budget $12.5, April Forecast $0.0, FY 12 Actual N/A

–Depending on how the current appeals and adjustments are resolved, we may have additional increases to the property tax forecast.
–Non-salary expenses are lower when compared to same period for prior year.
–Salary expenditures remain high and  we will continue to monitor vacancies.
–Forecast for other revenues related to indirect costs and E-Rate may not fully be realized.
{End of Presentation – no questions from BOE}
Next up is a presentation of PROJECT THRIVE:  Human Capital Transformation by HR

The district views this Human Capital project as the primary vehicle to refocus our Human Resources organization to deliver services that are operationally sound and, even more importantly, completely aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives and the needs of the core business which is effective instruction.  The district wishes to develop a best-in-class Human Resources organization that supports its mission by transcending transactional proficiency and adopting supportive, strategic Human Resources activities.

HR Proposal

2:58pm – The BOE work session has ended and the

Two items will be added under discussion and action:

1.  Washington High School, begin process of moving away from small schools and into small learning communities

2.  Begin discussion of reconstitution of Douglass High School

3.  Superintendent’s score-card approval

There will also be four reports from various committees including the Superintendent Search Committee.  We will now have public comments from members of the community who have called in to speak on specific agenda items.
Speaker 1: Item 2/04
What is missing is the ability to support the Jackson cluster.  What is missing is how to get the dollars out to the classroom.  What is missing is the full context of the FY 2014 budget.  I just looked at the HR presentation on guiding principles and strategy and I don’t see that in the agenda for these items.
Speaker 2: Item 2/04
I come to you today to discuss goals and objectives.  I will discuss APS central office budget and antiquated planning.  Our charter schools could be destroyed if APS continues on this path.  One school, Tech High, immediately shut its doors last year due to the pension fund issue.  (Dr. Grant:  Again, I would like to remind you that you called in to speak on mission, vision, goals…) Earlier this year Fulton County ruled that APS was violating the law (surrounding charters) and ordered APS to release the money.
McDaniel:  We’ve asked that you speak towards specific items on the agenda and you have not done that.  What you’ve done is taken an agenda item and transitioned to another topic.
Speaker:  This is about the vision of the strategic planning
Speaker 3:  Class size resolution
As a board your job is to set policy and I urge you to set a policy limiting class sizes to the current size.  The resolution today is not what you’ve done in the past. In the past, the waiver has always been to 33 and APS has budgeted to 28, this year they are budgeting to 33, not 28.  They are budgeting to 33, there is not enough money and they will get rid of teachers.  They will remove 300 teachers.  I’m not pulling these numbers out of thin air.  We haven’t seen a budget yet and its not your job to micromanage the budget.  Last year we lost 400 teachers and this year they are talking about another 300. That’s 21% of the workforce.  I understand that teachers need help, they need HR, bus drivers, back office…but if we’re gonna cut costs, lets not do it in the classroom, lets do it in administration.  There is a lot of fluff that can be cut.  Force APS to make difficult choices in their own house and not in our schools. (VIEW THE LATEST BUDGET PRESENTATION HERE:
This ends the public comment portion of the meeting.
Superintendent is now presenting the Consent Agenda.  View the entire agenda here:

2.05:  Authorization to Revise Policy JBCCA Student Assignment to Schools (First Reading)
YJohnson:  The concern was whether we would routinely consider transfers when we were considering the capacity of a school.  This policy will outline how we will determine capacity for students which will then determine the availability for transfers.   The capacity as a base level would always be established by the zoned students.  That was the conversation. In my mind I thought this was important enough to bring to the BOE.

Superintendent:  I think that prior to this revision the view of capacity of the building was a physical capacity, meaning that if we ever have a building that was not at its capacity we could fill it.  The policy does make it clear that we will consider the faculty capacity, in essence we will not increase the faculty to accommodate transfers into the school.  Once a child is there on an admin transfer, they are included in our capacity count going forward.

Meister:  We had a lot of discussion about this.  There are a few things that were taken out of JBCCA that I believe are being put into a regulation.  I do believe those are policies we have in place and now they are being shifted into a regulation and I question that.  There are a lot of different definitions on capacity.  Classroom space is cited in the policy but doesn’t have a definition.
YJohnson:  Having a K-12 administrative transfer was never a part of the policy.
Meister:  No I just wanted to add that to the discussion.
Superintendent:  I think we’ve responded to the concerns with logic behind it, but if you want to have that discussion, then perhaps we can take it back to committee.
EJohnson:  I want to know what the administration thinks of the policy.
Superintendent:  I think what you have before you represents our best work around this policy.
Butler-Burks discusses employee transfers…
Superintendent:  The issue comes when you say its time for that child to move onto the next school. Then you have a child in a school where the parent is not working, or the parent moves somewhere else.  The real issue from a policy perspective is whether once a teacher has a child in a cluster, whether you are willing to let the child proceed thru the cluster, knowing that you may bump a child or add to the capacity definition.  I agree 100% that if the child comes with the mother/father to a school, that that is a perk we have provided, but as far as remaining in the cluster….
Butler Burks:  One of the things I’ve learned about Atlanta is that we’ve known to be the first and only sometimes so I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t find it.
McDaniel:  The issue around employees being able to have their children in the system is one the BOE seems to have interest in.  I think the policy committee should have discussion on what part of that should be policy vs regulations.
YJohnson:  So 1.  BOE employees allowing their children to be at the school where they are.  2.  The consideration of a K-12 administration transfer for employees.  3. ?
Meister speaks about the fact that some items which she thought were law have now been pulled from certain policies.  Makes references to No Child Left Behind laws.
Superintendent:  The law has changed and when the law changes we have to make a policy change.
Meister:  So when the law changes…
Superintendent:  We obviously should have a policy that says we have to follow the law, where then we don’t have to reference the law in the policy.
Meister:  My last one was the definition of capacity.  I thought as a board we would talk about class size and capacity.
YJohnson:  And just for my list, do we want to see a definition of capacity in the policy?
McDaniel:  I think one of the issues is how class size goes into the definition of capacity.  The way the policy reads now is that we give the administration the tools to use and the administration brings back the capacity.  The question is whether we as a board are going to define capacity.
Superintendent:  The mechanics of how you define this says that this is an exact science and it is not.  If we are going to move to a new building next year, we may do something different next year…how those factors all fit together is not precise. (Superintendent uses examples to support the fact that the formula for capacity is not a one-size-fits-all exercise).
The policy committee will discuss these items at their next meeting.
McDaniel is pulling 2.05 and 2.06 from the agenda.
2.07:  Authorization to Abolish and Create Positions within the Human Resources Division.  See today’s presentation here:
Discussion has been taking place on this item for about 10 minutes.
HR:  We simply want to make sure we were cost neutral or under what we are currently spending.  One of the critical things we did was to look at other large urban districts and what they were doing.
Superintendent:  Fixing a number assumes a delivery technology and we are…as we move more and more things with program learning and computer tech, we may want to go to a different number (teachers:teacher mentors)
HR:  We are asking you to fund where we believe we should be.  Moving to 14-15 you will notice that the positions in green have been deferred b/c we don’t know what will happen to Race to the Top.  Once we have confirmation we can come to you with recommendations of the number of teachers for 14-15 school year.


As outlined in report number 11/12-5116, the board previously authorized the abolishment of thirty-one (31) Human Resources positions.  All of the positions were proposed for elimination so that the District can refocus our Human Resources organization to deliver services that are operationally sound and, even more importantly, completely aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives and the needs of the core business, which is effective instruction.

In December, 2012, the District embarked on a HR Transformation initiative, which is funded and supported by the Gates Foundation, and which was approved by the Board of Education on November 5, 2012.   The initiative, called Project Thrive, has developed a robust and modern service delivery model that leverages best practices and enables operational efficiency, centers of expertise for Talent, and Strategic HR Partners focused on proactive and strategic services for Regional Directors and Principals. The district designed a best-in-class Human Resources organization that supports its mission by transcending transactional proficiency and adopting supportive, strategic Human Resources.

As mentioned above, the Board previously abolished thirty-one (31) positions, of which seventeen (17) are classified and covered by Board Policy GCKA.  The Board, at the same time, approved creation of thirty-two (32) positions. We recommend the transition of funds from the positions created in Report 11/12-5116 to create forty-eight (48) positions in support of the new HR Structure, which includes the thirty-two (32) positions mentioned above, plus sixteen (16) current positions.

Further, to fully support the strategic objectives and desired future state HR capabilities and services, we recommend an additional twenty-four (24) positions for the HR function. We are transitioning funds for positions currently in Curriculum and Instruction, which are currently performing HR activities, to create funding for the additional positions. This action would have the additional benefit of streamlining HR activities across the District, enabling HR expertise services, and allowing it to fulfill its mission to perform as a best-in-class Human Resources organization.

RECOMMENDATION:  That the aforementioned positions are abolished and created. And, the attached plan and organizational structure are approved.

REASON:  To streamline HR activities across the District, enable HR expertise services, and fulfill its mission to perform as a best-in-class Human Resources organization.


FUNDING SOURCE:  General and Special Revenue Accounts

Butler-Burks asks for this to be moved so that an amendment can be made.  Item is moved to New Business.
2:08 Authorization to Abolish and Create Positions within the Curriculum and Instruction Division and Execute a Transition Plan
Kinnane asks that this item is pulled for discussion and action.
4.01  Authorization to Amend the Project Budget and Construction Management at Risk Contract with J.E. Dunn Construction Co. For the new NAHS Construction Project
Kinnane poses question about the need to increase this budget.  Alvah Hardy, Director of Facilities, gives explanation.
In April 2012, the Board authorized the superintendent to enter into and execute a contract with J. E. Dunn Construction Co. (formally known as R. J. Griffin & Company) for the New North Atlanta High School construction project (Report 11/12 -4311). Unforeseen conditions have been encountered and additional costs will be incurred to satisfactorily complete the project including removal of solid rock and large crushed rocks, processing of unsuitable soils and large crushed rocks for backfill, additional building code requirements, repairs to the existing building, a U. S. Department of Labor wage rate determination investigation that could lead to an increase in applied labor wage rates, and temporary facilities to accommodate the phased completion schedule. To accomplish these changes, it is necessary to obtain approval to increase the construction management at risk contract amount and the project budget.
RECOMMENDATION:  To follow established procedures and provide for the implementation of the Atlanta Public Schools capital improvement program consistent with providing a complete project within the approved project budget.

REASON:  To follow established procedures and provide for the implementation of the Atlanta Public Schools capital improvement program consistent with providing a complete project within the approved project budget.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS:  Increase construction contract in the amount of $13,593,989 and the project budget by $13,993,989.

FUNDING SOURCE:  The funds are available in the Capital Construction accounts.

Butler-Burks request explanation as to why a principal’s request is being honored as a building request.  Increase comes from SPLOST III budget and leaves SPLOST IV unchanged.  Asks for cost of reconfiguration of building based on principal’s request.  Mr. Hardy will bring that answer back to her at a later time.

Superintendent:  No one is disadvantaged in SPLOST IV because of this.  Now obviously, if some of those projects had been done in SPLOST III we could have done more in SPLOST IV, but we didn’t know at that time what the close-outs would be in SPLOST III.

Meister: Was there collaboration between past admin team and current admin team?  So much work was put into this prior.

Hardy:  I can’t answer to the collaboration.

Meister:  But you were at those project meetings.  I just don’t understand how we change course.

Superintendent: What might be helpful is a deconstruction of what costs drive what.  What we know now is that the majority of this ($5.8M) is due to the rocks.

Hardy: 900K = design changes, $1.9M = permit code issues…..

E.Johnson:  I’m a little concerned that we are making adjustments based on what an individual wants.  That would set a precedent.  Are these luxury changes or changes to accommodate a program.  (Johnson brings up the fact that requests were made by principals and parents in the past that were denied, but in this case approved).

Butler-Burks concurs and suggests that the money could be used towards another school in SPLOST III.

YJohnson:  What is the total?

Superintendent:  While he’s looking, if you look at construction costs this is a big building.  When you look at cost per student, this is not nearly as expensive, including Mays.  Cost per student was much more.  Number excludes the land.

YJohnson:  REally?

Superintendent:  Yes.  It’s just a bigger place.

English:  In our other schools, were there spaces where we can address a critical need?  I want to know what those needs are and if they exist.

Superintendent:  We would have to go back and look at SPLOST III projects that have been deemed complete.  Those that were not started have been moved to IV and given priority

EJohnson suggests pulling the item.

McDaniel recommends discussing it when it comes back up later on the consent agenda.

2.05, 2.06 pulled off agenda  and referred back to policy committee.  2.07 moved to new business.  2.08 moved to discussion and action.  2.09 moved to after executive session.  3.01 moved to discussion and action after executive session.  4.01 moved to discussion and action.

Consent agenda approved with changes.

Item 2.08 now back up for discussion.  Principals will now be able to hire full time and/or part time parent liaisons during the next school year.  If a principal wanted to hire one part and one full time parent liaison, they could under this agenda item.

Butler Burks:  Why don’t we create the number of full time and part time positions…we say we are pushing the decision down but actually we are forcing the decision.

Superintendent:  I think the solution to this is some flexibility in the personnel system particularly on non-revenue funds…these are Title funds.  Its not our desire to restrict them, its our desire to give them an option.  We are not trying to force 94 full time on them.  The problem is not with the money, the problem is with the system (HR system that locks positions into position numbers with no flex).

McDaniel:  And if we pulled this off the agenda…. (asks about timeline).

YJohnson suggests new language.

McDaniel:  We need to get to a point where we have 2 items.

Superintendent:  The one thing that is going to cause timing issues is the creation of positions in HR.  I’m not sure why abolishment would cause you problems.

Kinnane says she wants to not abolish.

Superintendent:  We can deal with them next week in budget discussions.

Kinnane:  I thought the reason it came to us now was getting to the gist of…we have a program that supports our classrooms, but we are now saying….

Superintendent:  I don’t think you want to go for a net increase.

Karen Waldon: I appreciate the level of concern from Ms. Kinnane, it was a level of concern in C&I also.  We are convinced that the model will work.  We are using the new teacher center materials and the model will remain intact. The school support on the ground will really enhance what we’ve already done.  If the previous model was applauded by the state, this one will be done so even more.

Kinnane:  It feels like we’re losing the people that have received this training.

Waldon:  The onsite support with master teachers, we believe, is an important part of this program.

McDaniel:  We have an item with 2 components (94 new positions created, elimination of 17 positions)

Motion made and 2nd to separate two items.

Now have an item to abolish 17 positions related to the Human Resources transformation.

Kinnane:  I don’t think it is, what I am raising is, not I’m saying, I don’t see the benefit….I would say there is a relation between what is going to be created in that division, yes, but I don’t think that is the same thing as saying we are eliminating the 17….

3 opposed (Kinnane, Butler Burks, EJohnson), motion passes.

Moving to Executive Session.  Community Meeting will resume at 6pm. Live Blog will continue then.

6:40pm The BOE is back and the community meeting will now begin with the first 30 comments.  The remaining speakers, approx 40, will speak after the committee of the whole meeting.

Speaker (Able Mable) I think it was a mistake that Kennedy was closed.  I’ve been hearing from parents in the neighborhood about overcrowding (in the new school) and conflicts.  Now I hear that Drew is coming into Kennedy.  It almost seems that Kennedy is good in physical structure for a whole side of town to come over, but not to keep the kids there and use recruitment to get kids to come to the school.  We also heard about the career academies but no real plan on how it will look.  We need for Kennedy not to close next year….no closure…what we want to do is to organize in a way that we can bring that school back online.  The money you are using at Brown, which is a little out of control, we can bring that back to Kennedy.  I’m an alumni also of BTWashington and we believe that we want to go back to one school, one principal.  We think the children would be better served with a comprehensive Washington structure.  One school, one principal and given the proper academic support from the board and the community.

Speaker:  We are from the Street Smart project and I want to present you today with a gift.  Our card is inside with our website and we want to build bridges.  We are here to reduce underage drinking and we focus on Adamsville and English Park.  We just wanted to present this to you. Speaker:  I attend Harper-Archer and I came from Sutton Middle School.

Speaker:  (Toomer Parent) Our school currently has the desire and the community support to move this (pre-K) program in the coming year.  We have the capacity to start an academic 6th grade in the next school year without any additional cost.  We are looking for the BOE support in this.  We believe this will give the opportunity for the brand of Toomer to continue.  As they matriculate they look for other options (charter/private) and we would like to retain more students.

Speaker:  (Jackson Cluster) I sent all of you a letter late last week and I’m going to highlight a few pieces. We are really excited in the Jackson Cluster.  We have fantastic leadership at all of our schools.  You are doing amazing things with the building of Jackson High.  What we need for you to do is think more about greater autonomy and equity in all of our schools because we do not want you to undermine our success.  Please, think strategically and creatively.  Thank you.

Speaker:  (ANCS Parent) We are very responsible stewards, and even though the offer has been made to return the funds, that money would have to be given back if we lost.  I started a petition online that I understand isn’t going to do much, but in a week’s time we got 1300 students.  These are 1300 people who are willing to fight very hard for students in APS.  We are really looking forward to working with you.  When parents wake up, they don’t say I want to send kids to a charter school, they say they want to send their kids to a good school.

Speaker:  (ANCS Parent) I commend you guys, you have been to our school.  I do appreciate that you’ve been there.  We have people and parents who are private school educated who want to go to a public school and make it work.  Take away the politics, take away whatever else is going on and its just kids.  They are here today and they are representative or our school and neighborhoods.  If you’re spending $45M to feed a school fed by 40% charter students I think you must respect charters and fund them equally.

Next two speakers also speak on behalf of charter schools, Wesley International and ACNS

ACNS student Luke just “rocked the mic.” with a great personal story and advocacy for his school.  Great job Luke – you are one amazing kid!

Next speaker represents neighborhood group NAPPS speaks out against the potential sale of the property where Atlanta International School is housed as a possible way to

Following speaker advocates for charter schools becoming a part of the strategic plan for Jackson High School.  “We are the ones coming in and giving our heart to that school.”

Speaker: (ANCS Parent) Able Mable said something interesting which is “neighborhoods change.”  I moved to Grant Park in ’89 when couples would come to GP, have kids and leave.  Now you look around and there are a million kids.  Jackson is on the cusp of greatness.  $45M is a huge investment we are making in that school, yet we want to cut the funding to charters.  If the charter schools fail, I worry that Jackson is going to fail.  We succeed, Jackson succeeds.   We can do better, we can make this work.

I am a parent of children at Grady and Inman.  Overall your teachers are not teaching and your administrators are waiting for the sky to fall, something to happen.  No one knows how to return phone calls, emails, letters (to BOE).  I don’t want to wait at the school for 3 hours for the principal not to address me.  I would like my kids to be taught a lesson.  If my child with an IEP has to do a foreign language, how does he pass the class and how does he graduate?  You all sit here and I wait for these answers.  I’m not worried about charters…you’re not teaching the kids in your own schools.  Whose teaching our students?  When are you going to start reprimanding the teachers and administrators. (Huge applause)

Speaker: (Grady Parent) As our reserve fund is dwindling I am afraid that we are all going to find ourselves fighting and clawing for the remaining funds.  Really put a plan in place (regarding budget) so that we really have a roadmap.

Speaker:  I am here with a group called Neighbors United for West End.  Our concern is Brown Middle School and Kennedy.  Right now Brown is overcrowded and now it is a bigger problem because we have students stacked on top of one another.  There was a situation last week where there were 13 fights before school started.  We are going to stay with this because we are concerned about our children.  We are concerned there are no books for our kids to take home.  We have kids who can’t read, write or do simple math.  We are here to stand up for them because they cannot stand up for themselves.

Speaker:  (Community Member – West End)  Years ago my daughter was preparing for middle school.  I live a 2 minute walk from Brown and I went to the school, spoke with the counselor and talked to her about my daughter.  I showed her the grades and reports.  The guidance counselor walked around the desk, closed the door and said “If you tell anyone I told you this, I will deny it.  I would not send my child here.”  She gave me the name of Drew Charter and I heeded her good advice and enrolled my child in Drew.  I drove to Drew everyday when I lived a 2 minute walk from Drew.  That is a crime.

Speaker:  (Community Member) We need two schools Brown and Kennedy.  It was so great to hear the young man earlier say he reads books, we don’t even have books [at Brown].

Speaker:  (Community Member – West End)  I would like to say that we have some serious issues, but we also have solutions.  We are district 2 and we are serious about our commitment to the young people.  We need Kennedy and Brown.  Let’s split the population.  We’re trying to build a sustainable cluster for success.  We have ideas and passion.  Brown, the leadership needs help and work.  When we came out to the school and said we could help, APS tells us they have to do paperwork.  They say all teachers are not bad, but if you are following bad leadership….  We have to do some serious cleansing in our schools.  We are fed up.  With the increase of the population, the sewage system is backing up.  Pay attention charter schools, these are the resources we are getting.  They take the kids, crowd them up on top of each other, then suspend them.  We need to revisit the approach to discipline in our schools.  The only time those kids get to go to the schools is when they get into a fight.  Mr. Amos, Mr. English stand up for these communities.

The next speaker talks about the political power and persuasion that went into building Drew High School.  “We did not suspect that Kennedy would be occupied by Drew.”

Next speaker speaks about how the district has divided parents and how we have not been able to communicate to the community what will be done with schools that close.

Speaker:  We are fighting like crazy to get a field house at Mays High and we are spending $3M on rocks? (NAHS).

Speaker: (Teacher Union Leader)  We are continually having problems finding candidates to serve on the BOE.  We are going to ask everyone in the audience to call us and email us your contact information so that we can put the hot irons to the state capitol where the money is being taken from the schools.

Next speaker asks that the classroom teachers not be increased in the 2013-14 budget.

Speaker: Many special ed teachers have been forced to sign a remediation plan.  These teachers are highly qualified in the subjects they teach, but you are asking them to become highly qualified in subjects they do not teach or have never taught.

Following speaker asks for a motion on the floor tonight that closes small schools at Washington High School.

Grady High Student speaks about the school’s robotics program and asks that all schools in Atlanta have a STEM based robotics program.  States there are 3 major obstacles when starting a robotics program – lack of knowledge, funding and sponsors.  Says that she and teammates will work to establish teams.  Asks that the BOE makes a public commitment to support robotics as a competitive sport and puts it into every APS K-12 school.


This ends the firs part of tonight’s community meeting.

8:00pm COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE now beginning.

The HR agenda item is now back up for discussion.

Butler Burks asks that an amendment is made to the part of the item that speaks to teacher mentors. Motion to amend carries.

Gains and Losses up for vote.  Motion carries.

Item 3.01 regarding Career and Tech programs and lab equipment up for discussion.  Motion carries.

Item 4.01 regarding NAHS additional funds needed to complete construction.  Mr. Hardy says that the principal did not act unilaterally.  $450K deals with the chemistry lab and hoods due to the height of the building.  The original design had chemistry labs in all for academies, but because of the 10th grade being the time frame you take chemistry, those 10th graders would remain in their 2 level academy and that’s when we changed to floorplan for the labs.

Butler-Burks:  You said it was changed from the original design.  Would this cost have been in there in the original design?

Hardy: No.  In reference to the design at other schools, some campuses were designed as independent schools and were accommodated as individual schools.

Butler-Burks:  My recommendation would be to not change the original design.  This is a want vs a need.  Its a change to wanting grades by floor which adds $450K to a project.

Kinnane:  Has NAHS transitioned from small learning communities?

Superintendent:  They will still have SLC’s.

Kinnane:  But I thought the change was to change the school to grade level floors.

Superintendent:  They will be in SLC’s but by grade as well.

Karen Waldon:  I don’t have the proposal that was drawn up with me, but one of the concerns at NAHS was that there were issues regarding student access, equity in terms of programming…so they do have the SLC’s.  They are separated by grade level but the SLC’s are in tact.  Many of the students were not able to access the AP classes and this is a more robust approach to that.  Dr. Mays and the head of our SLC’s went out to meet with Dr. Taylor and we know this is a viable approach.

Meister:  Is there another place to find the $450k in the budget?  If we have to do that is there a place to find those dollars?

Hardy:  This is the best way to approve those dollars.  I’m not really sure I understand the question.

Meister:  If this is a want, is there another place….

Hardy:  There is a $1.9M contingency, that is true in all of your budgets.

Kinnane:  What threw us are the changes.  We do want to build the labs and now is the time to do it. I don’t think we are suggesting we don’t want to outfit labs as we should.

Butler Burks:  The initial design allowed for the appropriate # of labs.  It was the changing of floors that changed it by $450k.

Superintendent:  I agree, but I wouldn’t hold this out as an anomaly.  We expanded the music program (building) at Jackson.  This is not strangely unusual.

Hardy:  It is not uncommon to have programmatic changes.

Kinnane:  For the Jackson one it was a little different, the design was to best house the …It wasn’t that someone came in and said I want a whole different approach or plan.  We don’t want to shortchange other schools that also want to make those modifications.

Superintendent:  If that is the concern you can drop the authorization by this amount and we can figure out how to get the funds from within the budget.

McDaniel:  We do need chem labs in the school and floor by floor gives him the physical configuration he needs.

Hardy says that the hoods in the lab re-design represent $450k.

Buter Burks moves that BOE modifies increase  by $450k.

Muhammad: Does this mean we won’t have the labs here?

McDaniel:  It sounds like two options is that they will either find $450k somewhere else in the budget or put them back in original design and students would have to go to different floors for chemistry.

English:  I have an equity question.  There are schools around the district without labs period.

Hardy:  A high school?

English: I can take you to 3.

Muhammad:  They will not be without, they will have a lab.

English:  My commentary was on the entire increase.

Kinnane:  We all got thrown by hearing changes were requested.  But did it come from a safety issue?  Is this because of safety concern?

Hardy:  It’s because of a student management issue.

McDaniel:  Motion on floor is to approve action item less $450K

Motion passes.

Amos brings a motion to the floor asking the BOE to move on Washington High School’s small school model.

YJohnson:  I would like to hear from the supt. in relation to that.

Superintendent:  As you remember over the last year, we waxed hot and cold on this not so much on a philosophical perspective but over what is politically do-able.  We decided during the last process that this wasn’t worth doing and we could get some economies out of the schools by sharing resources.  Looking at the performance of the small schools, 9 of the 12 “priority schools” as designated by the state are our small schools.  Leadership counts more than structure.  The only cost comparisons we’ve ever made is looking at NAHS, Carver EC at one time and saw 6-700k difference.  We looked at it this year and said is it worth the fight.  We wanted to do away with small schools 2 years ago.  We want to get public comment, polling and make recommendations on what we’ve heard.  We’ve heard from the Carver community and South Atlanta who are not particularly in favor of doing away with them, but Therrell and Washington…

Amos:  I would like to withdraw my motion and  put another on the floor.  Authorize superintendent to start the process of closing small schools at Washington High Schools and for the superintendent to bring back a plan of transition to the next board meeting.

YJohnson:  Is it my understanding that given the input you’ve received you are comfortable moving forward with Washington?

Superintendent:  We’ve had strong indication from Washington but there are more people in that community that are not at these meetings.  What we would do is have school closing meetings as required by law.

EJohnson asks that the district looks at the data behind the schools.

Muhammad:  I think we should do it differently.  I think a lot of people didn’t realize what the change was for the schools.  There were people there and they were there to listen and they were not able to communicate to the parents or young people in the school.  Someone is going to have to talk back to those in the audience to let them know what the plan is.

Superintendent:  There are two separate messages you are talking about here.  The start process is to take the comment pro and con. The other is a free form exploratory discussion.

Motion passes.

Next up is the discussion item surrounding the reconstituting of Douglass HIgh School. Brought by BOE member English.

English:  Douglass had a history of being one of the highest performing schools in the district, now, with the exception of Crim, it is the lowest performing in the district.  The motion would be to authorize the superintendent to begin the reconstitution of Douglass High and to provide recommendations of principal autonomy throughout the district.  A great deal of talk has been around allowing principals to pick their own staff…if we believe that all problems are leadership problems I would like to see a plan in place to allow principals to choose their own staff.

YJohnson:  There are strict state-driven guidelines to reconstitution.   That seems like the extreme, what do we gain by reconstitution that we couldn’t gain short of that.

Superintendent:  Reconstitution does give the principal the shortest term opportunity to reshape the workforce.  This is a school under a school improvement grant.  It’s doable and drastic.  But when you’re in the bottom, maybe drastic measures….  I’m supportive of it but I want to be able to do it.

YJohnson:  Does the principal stay?

Superintendent: Yes (Note – principal is new as of this school year)

Kinnane:  My discomfort with it is that there is a process that has to be met with the system and the state and I don’t understand the need for making the changes at the school.  I think the process is going to have to happen within parameters.

Superintendent:  Actually the answer is no on the principal, but we have put in a new principal…we’ve done that step.

Meister:  I have seen something very similar to this go on before and we have to be careful…

Superintendent:  Well the student government association has come to us and asked us to reconstitute the school.

Butler Burks:  It may be hard to do it between now and the school year but maybe we can think of some short-term things.  I struggle with that because we’ve had principals ask for that in the recent past and we have denied them.

Superintendent:  I would say never deny the principal of the lowest performing school in the district.

English:  It seems counter intuitive to put a principal at a school with a 40% graduation rate and not allow him to choose his staff.

Board members are saying that the superintendent has the right to move forward with this action on his own and that the board should not be the one to bring this action.

Davis explains how during the last hiring process best efforts were made to allow principals to pick their own staff.  As long as we have people in leadership who don’t document their staff, he says we will continue to have those issues.

English:  You’ve got the LSC, PTA, staff in the school, district representative, students who all want it to happen.  I would hope that this board would stand up and say a 40% graduation rate is not acceptable and we need to stand with students.  Stand up, stand with the community and say this is not acceptable.

English moves that superintendent bring back a plan in accordance with the ??? (inaudible).

Motion passes.

BOE discusses superintendent’s scorecard.

No questions.

Motion on floor to approve scorecard. Passes.

9:45pm LEGISLATIVE MEETING now beginning.

 Amos would like to add to the discussion and action item to the agenda regarding the combining of  Brown MS and Kennedy MS.

BOE acknowledges teacher appreciation week and nurses appreciation week! We love our teachers and staff!

McDaniel:  I want to encourage community members to participate in meetings in the community around creating a profile around our next superintendent.  Meeting dates are May 15, 16, 20, 21st 6-8pm at various school locations.  Unveiling of the APS archives will be June 27th.

McDaniel:  We will begin our graduation ceremonies on May the 27th.

Davis:  I also would like to welcome those who are here as well as those who are viewing on tv. The end of our semesters are drawing close.  There are only 12 days left of school for our traditional students.  We are in the home stretch and every day counts and I want to see every student in school.  I want to take this time to congratulate our Gates Scholars.  APS ranks in the top 5 schools in the nation with its number of Gates Scholars for 2013.  Kudos to the students and those that help the students get there.

I want to announce retirements: Mr. Sterling Christie, Price MS principal for 7 years with a total 41 years in education.  Lastly I join the chair in thanking all APS employees including teachers and principals.  Today was teacher appreciation day.  May 1st was also school principal day.  I’ve visited almost every school in the past 2 years and I am very pleased that the Mayor and Civic Leaders have committed to working with us to share the good in our district.  Steve Smith will lead our presentation for National Teacher Appreciation week.

Steve Smith introduces the teacher appreciation video.


Superintendent approves items on the consent agenda.

Amos brings motion to the floor to revisit the final attendance zones and decision made regarding Kennedy Middle school and redistricting.

Motion passes.

Board discusses the resolution requesting class size exemptions for 2013-14 school year.

YJohnson:  Are we budgeting based on the maximums?

Chuck Burbridge:  Yes, we are budgeting based on the maximums.

Meister:  I have an elementary school where they are asking the principal to increase the 5th grade by 34%.

McDaniel:  There is obviously some hesitation about making a decision on this tonight.  If it is the will of the board maybe we can get clarification on the last date that we can file the waiver….I would expect us to have at least 1-2 special called budget commission meetings before that point.

Resolution will be tabled.

Report up next is the K-8 Pilot Resolution.$file/K-8%20Pilot%20Resolution%202013.pdf

Kinnane suggests naming Toomer as the Jackson cluster school to be used for the K-8 pilot.

After a robust discussion over the resolution and a possible amendment, the motion to move forward with possible K-8 pilot at Centennial and Toomer passes.

Discussion has moved to the budget.  Next meeting Butler Burks says that the members should receive a budget book with explanation of changes.  Meeting will take place on 5/13

Public Comment continues:

Speaker: (Wesley Charter Parent) 40% of Jackson cluster children attend charters.  I am here tonight to ask you to do better, please drop your appeal.  The community wants us there and we would like to be there.

Speaker:  (Mays High Parent) After watching you all tonight equity just jumps out at me.  What I’ve seen over the past few months of attending board meetings is a lack of equity.  At Mays we’ve been trying to bring equity…to all of our clusters.  When you can sit up here and say $60M on land.  Then when I hear 90M for one school and look at every renovation since 1999, no one has gone over $40M.  It is ridiculous that you sat up and voted to approve that type of school and then ask others in the district to feel that is equitable.

11:41pm Meeting adjourned

One thought on “LIVE BLOG: May 6, 2013 Board of Education Meeting

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  1. Thanks for live blogging, and for the shout out to Luke! 🙂

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