Falcons linebacker gets Fain students geared up for the CRCT

Fain_Sean Weatherspoon Atlanta Falcons_Students Cheer Photo

Franklin “Sean” Weatherspoon inspires students at Fain to do their best for the upcoming CRCT. The Falcons linebacker played college football at the University of Missouri and was drafted by the Falcons with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

 

Growing up, playing in the NFL was not the only career Sean Weatherspoon envisioned for himself: if his dreams of competing on the gridiron did not pan out, today, Weatherspoon would be teaching high school history and coaching high school football, he told a group of Fain Elementary students last week during a pre-CRCT rally at the school. The Atlanta Falcons linebacker stopped by to get them revved-up and ready for the annual spring test which began Wednesday and ends next week.

Fain_Sean Weatherspoon Atlanta Falcons_Teacher Student Photo

Teacher Melissa Hoppie listens as a student reveals her excitement before Weatherspoon’s arrival. Weatherspoon’s Fain visit was part of the school’s weeklong pre-CRCT activities.

As part of “sports day” at Fain students and staff got to sport their favorite team’s paraphernalia. Third, fourth, and fifth-grade students got the chance to meet and take pictures with Weatherspoon, and ask him questions like: “When you get tackled, does it hurt?”; “Why do you act like you’re eating food when you make a touchdown?”; and  “How did you make it through college and graduate early?”

Fain_Sean Weatherspoon Atlanta Falcons_Female Student 2

Weatherspoon answers questions from a Fain fourth-grader.

Before the Q-and-A, Weatherspoon mesmerized the young audience by describing his journey to the NFL and life as an Atlanta Falcon. He pointed out the similarities between preparing for a game and preparing for tests like the CRCT, reminding them to fuel-up by eating a hearty breakfast on testing days and get plenty of rest the night before.

“Football is a lot like school…Every Sunday is like my test, so I have to prepare throughout the week. I have to stay in shape, study the playbook on my iPad, and study the other team’s films. I actually spend more time in the classroom than on the field. And just like you, if I don’t take advantage of the time I have to study in the classroom, I won’t be ready for my big test on Sunday.”

Weatherspoon decided to visit Fain after his Spoonful of Hope foundation, and Prolanthropy, a philanthropic management organization that creates opportunities for professional athletes to share their success through charitable efforts, joined forces with Scholastic to identify a school in the Atlanta area where Weatherspoon could meet the students, share his message, and encourage and energize them about reading and student achievement.

Scholastic representative Les Kevehazi nd Dana Trenkle with Weatherspoon, Fain principal Mesha Greene (right) and Fain media specialist Twana Cannon (center). Kevehazi coordinated Weatherspoon's visit with Prolanthropy and Weatherspoon's foundation "Spoonful of Hope." Kevehazi said he chose Fain for the visit because he was impressed with Cannon's enthusiasm and the passion for reading at the school.

Scholastic representatives Les Kevehazi and Dana Trenkle with Weatherspoon, Fain principal Mesha Greene (right) and Fain media specialist Twana Cannon (center). Kevehazi coordinated Weatherspoon’s visit with the Prolanthropy organization. Kevehazi said he chose Fain for the visit because he was impressed with Cannon’s enthusiasm and the passion for reading at the school.

“I met Fain’s media specialist a few months ago when she was following up on independent reading opportunities for the kids at her school,” Kevehazi said. “I was so impressed with her enthusiasm, and the great passion around reading at the school, I thought Fain was a great choice.”

Weatherspoon agreed, saying, “I know many of these kids will never have a chance to meet a professional football player, and having someone encourage them, who they see on TV, and who has achieved what they want to one day will go a long way.”

 Through  his Spoonful of Hope foundation, Weatherspoon advises youth to stay motivated and humble and to follow their dreams.

Through his Spoonful of Hope foundation, Weatherspoon advises youth to stay motivated and humble and follow their dreams.

 

April 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

BOARD PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP – THE ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION

BOARD PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP - THE ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION

April 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Virtual Learning: Register now for summer classes (Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education)

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Summer Registration has begun for the Atlanta Virtual Academy (AVA)

Registration for the summer semester is open from April 21, 2014 – June 4, 2014.  Classes for the summer session are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 and end on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Approximately 800 students are currently enrolled in one of our Atlanta Virtual Academy programs for the spring semester which runs through May 9th.

We are excited to Increase our AVA Summer Course Offerings and will continue to expand into the Fall 2014.  Summer offerings include:

Math

ELA

Science

Social Studies

Phys. Education

Coordinate Algebra

9th Grade Literature

Biology

World Geography

Health

Analytic Geometry

World Literature

Physical Science

Citizenship

Personal Fitness

Math I A/B – Math

American Literature

 

World History

 

 

British Literature

 

US History

 

 

 

 

Economics

 

Students will be engaged in an interactive course that will cover important learning objectives and will be led by certified APS teachers who are content experts and are well versed in online teaching and learning.  See a sample course here.

See below for ways to support your online student this summer.

In order to receive communications regarding your AVA registration and enrollment and to communicate with your virtual teacher, you must use your Atlanta Public Schools student email address.   Please contact your local school counselor to get your email address. Using your APS email will ensure all communication reaches you in a timely manner.  Parents are also required to include an email address to receive ongoing communication.

Students can see a tutorial on accessing your APS email by clicking this here.

While the coursework is primarily online, AVA courses are similar to traditional face-to-face classes. Students complete lesson activities, homework, engage in class discussions, and take tests. We are committed to ensuring APS student success in AVA. Teachers will communicate grade progress bi-weekly and maintain learning plans for students that are struggling, and they will hold weekly online tutorials. In addition to these things, course instructors have required office hours. During this time they are available to assist students and address any individual questions or concerns.

Students are required to login daily for an average of 20-24 hours each week.  For AVA courses taken outside of the summer blended learning experience students are responsible for providing their own technology.

All enrolled students must attend a mandatory Atlanta Virtual Academy Orientation. AVA Summer Orientation will be held at the locations and times below.

Monday, June 9, 2014 – Grady HS (9am-11am)

Monday June 9, 2014 – Carver HS (1pm – 3:00pm)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 – Therrell HS (9am – 11am)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - Coretta Scott King HS (1pm – 3:00pm)

Please take a moment to assess “Is Online Learning for You?” by taking our online quiz. Click here to access the quiz.   In addition, all students are required to get approval from their school counselor prior to registering for courses. For more information or to register for the summer semester visit http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/Domain/7414.

 

April 24, 2014 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

MJHS Lady Jaguars bring home Region 4AAA Championship

Maynard Jackson High School’s Lady Jaguars had an impressive performance last week in Rockmart, bringing home the 4AAA Region Championship after placing in all events and winning 11 out of 15. Courtney Jones, who was named both Running Events and All-around MVP, set the tone for Jackson’s performance.

Jones won first place in the high jump, 100-meter hurdles, and 300-meter hurdles. Jackson had standout performances from the 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams with both teams winning 1st place. Diamond Reese was named MVP of field events winning 1st place in the shot put and discus throw.

The Lady Jags placed in all events making it a true team effort in earning enough points to win the entire meet.

“It feels great because the girls have dedicated themselves this season to being successful and winning these championships,” said Jackson’s Head Coach Thomas Russell. “These were pre-season goals that we set for ourselves as a team.”

The Lady Jags are looking to take this momentum to sectionals with the goal to match last year’s success and have the most players qualify for the State Tournament. Sectionals take place this Saturday, April 26th at Lakewood Stadium.

A list of upcoming spring athletic events is available on the APS athletic website. Visit www.atlantapublicschools.us/athletics for more information.


 

 

 

April 23, 2014 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting – April 22, 2014

Thank you for following our live blog of the April 22, 2014 Board of Education Special Legislative Meeting for Atlanta Public Schools.

View today’s agenda here: http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public

REFRESH your browser often for updates.

The meeting will begin soon.

5:15pm – Meeting called to order

Agenda approved.

Community members have signed up to speak this evening.  Each person will have 3 minutes to give remarks on items from the agenda.

Speaker:  When you look at the APS Organizational Chart at the top of the chart is the public.  Below the public you will see the Board and then the Superintendent.  During the Jackson Cluster middle school discussion at no point did the Superintendent or the Board participate in any formal capacity.  Questions were not answered and information was not shared with the community.  Community members attended multiple meetings walking away with more questions than answers.  Seemingly, to many, the Superintendent came out of nowhere with the recommendation currently before the board.  There have been zero community meetings or discussions regarding this proposal nor have any details been shared with the community.  Where is the community engagement.?

The communities of EWD, EL and KWD are experiencing a population growth.  EWD has a number of apartments and housing coming on line very soon.  In the past APS has failed to take into account upcoming housing changes.  Since the census Edgewood has added more than 200 apartment units and in the last decade had an increase in owner-occupied house was 40%.

Coan Middle School has made great strides over the past two years.  Coan has had greatest academic growth in APS for a middle school and in the recent state report Coan has shown great gains.  Coan also has a number of top rated academic teams.  Coan is currently performing better than King.  During redistricting 2012 the Superintendent again and again stated that he would not under any circumstance move children from a school that is performing well to a lesser performing school to ease overcrowding or under enrollment.

Numbers of students and athletics should not drive our decision.  Time and time again parents in our cluster have voted with their feet choosing academics over athletics, stadiums and pools.  What happened to the Superintendent’s statement that he would not move children to a lower performing school?  Is APS telling us that butts in seats, regardless of academic performance is what is most important?  Why can’t Coan be the cluster middle school if that is the discussion?  Why must one group of children leave their community for 7 years?  This proposal is nothing more than business as usual created in a vacuum by a small group of individuals with access.  This process and the way that the announcements about the vote have been made appear to be intentionally excluding the very group of individuals that it will impact most.  Again I say shame on APS!  Where is the inclusion that we were promised by our newly elected board?

Second speaker also advocates for the Jackson Cluster and a stronger middle school and/or middle school options.

Third speaker asks that Coan and King both become schools of choice.

Next speaker asks for a Coan/King proposal with details, a budget and information on the future use of Coan if closed.
“…In other words, it appears as if with 60 days to go in this school year, the administration is not capable of estimating the results to the current year and therefore cannot set objectives for next year.”

Fifth speaker asks that the BOE postpone the Coan/King proposal.

Speaker:  I am a 3rd grade teacher in APS.  I am here with my friends and we have all have Master’s degrees.  I was 39 years old and I had the guts to go back to school again and as we all know the hardest students are teachers.  Now I am going to be penalized for increasing my education.  What I am hoping you will consider is that a $1,000 increase in my pay one time will not motivate me to continue to teach.  I pay for daycare, I pay for aftercare, everyone in the U.S. has suffered from the lack of pay increases.  I would like to personally invite all of you to my classroom to see the magic happen and watch what I learned in graduate school.  I spoke to a gentleman who has been teaching in APS for 25 years and someone who started teaching this year is getting paid the same as him.  I just want you to put a face to what is going on.

Comments have ended.

Superintendent Erroll B. Davis is now bringing the agenda items to the floor.  View today’s agenda here: http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public.

Motion on the floor to approve the FY15 budget.

Grant:  There has been a lot of discussion about this.  A lot of criticism about the way we are spending the money.  Couple of concerns, as a district we have put an emphasis on quality teaching over the class size piece and I don’t think that has been communicated to the public and I don’t think that argument has been properly framed.  [Asks that Westmoreland speak to this topic].  I would also like to get a second look at the way the raises are being allocated.  If we can look at that again I would appreciate it.

Davis:  We certainly can look at that, its a fixed pot and we can cut it any number of ways.  It is merely a matter of what you want to maximize.  While the speaker spoke about being penalized, from our perspective one of the things we tried to do in this proposal is to eliminate salary compression.  The other side of that is the living wage.  Our lowest paid employees, we are trying to address that end of the spectrum. It is a pot, we can address this any number of ways.  We can come back…this is not critical to the budget itself because it is a fixed amount of money.  We can take that fixed amount and show you 2-3 examples.  On that we would not believe is appropriate is a solution that does not address everybody.  We have to have that whether it is thru bonuses or salaries we believe all employees should have some type of incentive.  On the issue of class sizes, this is not a new issue.  Most of the money for putting quality teachers in front of students was approved under the previous administration.  I think there is some misperception about what we have said or are saying.  No one has ever said that small class sizes are not better than large class sizes, what we have said is that the research tells us that the most important thing for a student’s success is engagement and right up there is the teacher in front of the student.  We certainly haven’t had a study anywhere that says small class sizes are not better than large, they are, its intuitive.  But as we talk about marginal changes…we are not talking about doubling class sizes…but marginal class size changes doesn’t have a big payoff and that is not a new thought here, that was here long before I got here and that is how we have focused our efforts.  We have also utilized Title Funds to help place additional teachers in the classroom.  Out of 100 teaching sites we have 7 non-Title schools that do not have the same flexibility as the Title schools. We put in 2 years ago a 2-step process for staffing our classrooms.  The second pass includes a one-on-one conversation with principals about their challenges with staffing and time-frames for change.

Grant:  What is the timeframe on those conversations with the principals?

Davis:  Obviously we have to do these things long before school opens.  I don’t doubt that there will be adjustments.

Amos:  This is my third go around with budgets.  We tried hard and I think we succeeded with the end of furlough days.  And with the pay raises, I think that helps with the morale of the district.  Those two things in themselves put the budget ahead of where we were last year.  I’d also like to talk about things that we’ve missed.  When it comes to SST positions, I think we could have fully funded the wrap around services the Deputy Superintendent asked for.  I asked how effective would they be by just placing them in the schools without support.  The budget moves us into a one size fits all category.  It does not speak to middle school students – there are special things that need to be done for that population.  Other than SST, how is this budget tied to our at risk population and middle school kids.  Class sizes on one of the district means something different than it means on the other side of the district.  I want to see how the quality of the teacher diminishes with the social ills in the classroom.  We say we have the ability to give our principals lower class sizes by using Title funds to hire teachers, but Title funds should be used to close unintentional gaps and not the intentional gaps we’ve created by not providing teachers.  That’s where we are.  Just being in this position once again is what I’m really looking forward to changing in the upcoming year.

Davis:  In terms of raises, which we will have – in terms of no furlough days, which we have – I want to speak to SST, we are putting an additional $4M in there and $3M into addressing childhood obesity by increasing physical education teachers.  [Davis speaks to how the increase of positions in certain areas, such as the addition of SST positions, are being fueled by a council of principals - not the central office].  We have responded to that.  As to how they will be used in each school, I can’t tell you that because I am responding to the pressure from principals to give them more flexibility to use positions how they feel best.  Last year the BOE tried to fix the issue of teachers by putting teachers in schools and what it did was ruin the rank order of teachers in our Title program.  We wound up last year actually penalizing teachers in Title schools because we took away their flexibility they would have had thru the Title program before placing teachers in their school.

Meister:  As you’ve said it is a pie and can be sliced many different ways.  My hope is that this BOE would give you 7 more days to go back and re-slice this pie.  I may have agreement, I may not but that is my hope so that we knew better what we are passing or not passing today.

Lee:  I find that…I think Mr. Amos hit on a lot of my points.  I want to make sure that we are aware that our primary mission as a BOE is to provide a quality learning experience and quality education for our children.  Although we’ve gotten a lot of positives out of this budget, I feel that a lot of areas [inaudible] If you show me your budget, I’ll show you your priorities and I’d like to see more of our priorities on our children.  Although this budget has some positives, there are things in this budget I think we should be more focused on.  Almost every one of the central office departments have an increase yet we are decreasing services at the bottom line.  I have very serious concerns in regard to where it is.

Davis:  Mathematically you are correct, but absent medical and benefit costs I don’t think there are any net increases in salaries at the central office.

Burbridge:  The increases in central office reflect several things.  One is our reduction of furlough days, second our treatment of insurance costs, third is the treatment of our vacancy offsets.  there are several technical reasons why expenses are higher in certain central offices than in the FY14 budget.  FY15 is the first year of actually budgeting since Project Thrive.  The HR department has made significant changes which were authorized last year.  When you look at departments such as operations, $82M, it hasn’t changed a whole lot.  The expenses driving the operations budget is the way the state is driving insurance.  The facilities department is having to eat that.  The cost of pest control, fuel are going down.  In facilities they are doing more with essentially the same dollar amount.  It is a $658M budget and there are 658M stories behind the numbers.

Davis:  The numbers you see in the central office is not necessarily in the central office.  IT for instance is up.  We are buying bandwidth and I guarantee you we are not using that in the central office, that is being used in the schools.  Are we moving more and more of our resources to the school-house?  Yes.  Are we doing it at a rate that makes everyone happy? Of course not.  We will exit 68 people from the central office soon due to the end of Race to the Top and some of those items have been put back into the office budget.  The data say that the progress of moving more money to the school-house is being made.  I have to agree with you in terms of ‘are we putting all of the money where it should be’ I can say that we’ve made strides to try to respond to the concerns you’ve made as board members.

Collins asks about updates to budget during fiscal year.  Burbridge explains that if the change is within a program it does not have to go to the board, but if the overall budget increases, it does go to the board.

Burbridge:  The superintendent does not have to spend the money, however.

Davis:  We can spend less, but not more.

Collins:  I must admit there are some holes but it is a whole lot better than the first budget presented to the Commission.  I do understand that we have to move forward with retaining great leaders and teachers and this is the season to to that. [Speaks about new superintendent having the opportunity to work on the budget].  Does this budget incorporate the waiver that was presented at the last meeting, was that resolution incorporated into this budget…is this budget reflective of the resolution [class size] presented?

Davis:  The actual disconnect between multiple resolutions and when you get to areas like special needs, that waiver is irrelevant because there are prescribed class size limits for special populations.  The budget is put together with that planning number but not put together with simply putting +5 across the board.

Burbridge: For special needs you are driven by student IEP’s.

Collins asks for clarity on the raises as it relates to teachers and higher degrees.

Burbridge:  Ultimately I am assuming we will implement June 30, 2014.  First look back is to see were you hired after 1/1/14.  If you were hired after that date or received a pay change after that day, you get $500.  If you were hired prior to 1/1/14 you get $1,000, with the exception of those who have not had a pay change since 6/30/10.  Let’s talk about a teacher.  Teacher had a bachelors then got a Masters.  If they got a 10% increase in pay between 7/1/10 and 6/1/12 then they would only be eligible for one step increase and $1,000 bonus.  If they received that 10% increase due to their degree between June 2012 and June 2014 you will receive a $1,000 bonus.

Davis:  One of the things we need to keep in mind, and we will bring back alternatives for you to look at, but there is a point in there that says APS does not pay for this [10% increase due to advanced degrees] – that the state does – and that is incorrect.

Note:  Below is the answer given earlier today via email by Mr. Burbridge to an APS teacher who asked for clarity around the pay increase for teachers:

“If they [APS teacher] want back to school and received their higher degree before June 30, 2010, they would get two steps.  If they received their higher degree after June 30, 2010 but before June 30, 2012, they would receive one-step and the $1000 one-time payment.  If they received their advanced degree after June 30, 2012, they would only receive the $1000 bonus.  The increase for an advanced degree is 10%.”

Briscoe Brown asks for clarity on class size waiver.  Davis says that waiver language will be more clear at next BOE meeting.

Brown:  I too want to thank Matt and other members of the budget commission for really digging deeply and taking this seriously.  While it was not a perfect process it was a much better one and I think that we accomplished more as a group than has been accomplished in a good long while.  [Brown thanks the public and says that all emails and comments about the budget were read and heard].

Brown applauds budget but says that she is deeply frustrated by the amount of money spent in the central office.

Brown:  I have thought seriously about voting against this budget.  Many of you have encouraged me to do so.  It has become obvious to me that voting against this budget will not make it better.  It is no secret that the current administration is outgoing.  As an attorney, I’ve learned to not fight a battle I cannot win. I am confident that our new superintendent will not dig in her heels and will work with us and for us.  As a BOE we are legally obligated to pass a budget by 6/30/14.  Given that Dr. Carstarphen will not be joining us till July 7, I don’t think delaying the budget will help our process.  [Brown says that delaying the budget will only negatively impact the ability to hire the best possible teachers and leaders].  The administrations voluntary spending freeze, which I appreciate and feel is a good faith move, I feel that we should give all of these factors a chance to build the budget and the system our kids deserve.  A lot of people have asked me where I stand.  Thank you.

Esteves:  I want to remind everyone that this is one of the largest budget requests that this school system has ever had.  [Says that this budget is not necessarily taking steps towards placing funds in the classroom or cutting positions in central office.  He has asked that positions/funds are cut that don't directly impact kids].  We should not expect the community to accept large class sizes and limited academic programs if this BOE and administration is not making the central office more efficient.  I feel like we are missing an opportunity to start the reforms we all know need to be made for this school system and that is extremely disappointing.  I know how hard this process can be and I want to commend Matt for the work done thus far.  [Says he is glad to know that system BOE has flexibility to continue working on the budget with the new superintendent].

Westmoreland:  I want to thank my colleagues on the budget commission.  I want to thank Chuck and his team who have sent us documents at 9 and 10 at night to make sure we are prepared for the next day and have taken many mandates from the state and making this budget work while still sending dollars to schools.  I am grateful that this budget will for the first time provide pay raises and not submit employees to furlough days.  I am grateful that this administration made investments in fine arts, nursing, counselors, etc. and I am grateful that this budget discussion started with principals. [Principals recommended new SST positions and those requests were met in this budget].  I am grateful we are having this conversation in mid-April [ 2 months earlier than last year].  This is not a perfect budget.  Everybody up here will agree with that.  I appreciate the motion Nancy made last week that recognizes that we are not there yet.  Thank you all for your comments.

English:  While a lot of the gaps have been pointed out and some of the strengths, I think there are a couple that haven’t been discussed.  I think it is a fruitful process to have these conversations at this point because these conversations will inform our ongoing budget conversations.  We will never be able to do everything in one budget cycle.  Even if we had $300 or $500M more, we would never be able to meet the needs of all of our students in one cycle.  What you must do is continue making investments in the strategic plan.  This budget continues funding [strategic plan] points such as access to higher level math by all students, access to foreign language and the arts.  We are making significant investments in physical education.  We went out and asked our school leaders ‘what do you want to do’ and overwhelmingly they said this [SST].  We said on the campaign trail that we wanted to listen to the folks who take care of our kids.  We are providing enhanced technology and support for our classrooms in order to improve the reliability and use of computer equipment by students and teachers.

English speaks about Atlanta Virtual Academy and how an investment in that new program has had a direct impact on graduation (8% bump) in one year.

English:  The administration took that and said let’s not just expand that to address remediation, but also give opportunities to kids to get ahead.  I think that is a critical thing we can point to speak to how we are reaching kids.  This goes a long way, in a period of transition, to address a lot of the issue folks are concerned about.  I think this budget continues the work that has already provided meaningful results for our children.  Not to mention, for the first time we are incorporating project THRIVE into our HR department.  What does that mean?  There was a time when it would have been difficult for anyone to tell you how many people worked in this system…that’s how operationally defunct APS was.  We’ve made strides to right side the ship.  Combine that with a hiring freeze and a spending freeze and there are a lot of things that have been done to [help Dr. Carstarphen].

Motion brought to the floor to approve the Fy15 budget.

Motion passes 6 to 3.

No Votes:  Meister, Esteves, Lee

Board will now move to second action item – An update on the Jackson Cluster middle grades proposal by superintendent Davis.

At the regularly scheduled board meeting last month, I had planned to recommend for board members’ consideration a preliminary proposal to strengthen middle grades education in the Jackson Cluster.   However, I asked that the board postpone its formal consideration in order to give my team and me time to perform additional due diligence based on several valid concerns expressed by parents.  I’ve modified my preliminary recommendation to include more definitive information about the transition support, Coan’s potential movement from the East Lake site, and a projected timeline for the renovation project – all taking into account the best interests of our students.

Again, this recommendation is designed to strengthen students’ middle school experience in the Jackson Cluster.

The cluster has two traditional middle schools: Sammye E. Coan and Martin Luther King Jr.  Despite the hard work and effort of students, parents, educators and partners, both middle schools are underutilized in a system where staff and other critical learning resources are tied to student enrollment.

The good news is that southeast Atlanta is growing – economically with new development and academically with the new Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School campus. We want the feeder middle schools – as well as the elementary schools – to match Jackson’s growing strength and support.

The recommendation, therefore, is to combine Coan and King middle schools by closing Coan at the end of the 2013-14 school year and rezoning all students to King at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.  The merger would allow us to maximize resources, improve the quality of educational services and better serve our students.  The bottom line is we wish to combine resources to better serve one school.  When a school campus has a larger enrollment, the school is allotted additional staffing.  As a result, the school can offer students a variety of opportunities – such as sports, clubs, band, chorus and orchestra – that cannot otherwise be provided in an underutilized structure.

Under the recommendation, students in the newly formed campus will be located at the Coan campus while King receives a major renovation ($10 million to $20 million).  I should clarify that students of the combined school will attend the original location of Coan M.S., beginning August 2014.  We anticipate that students will return to the new and combined campus at King M.S. during the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

This is not a new recommendation, we solicited input from hundreds of parents, teachers, principals, community members and partners.  They gave us feedback through community meetings, taskforce meetings and an online survey.

We had almost 600 respond to the online survey.  Of course, no one will be 100% satisfied with the recommendation to combine the two schools.   I would have been open to a K-8 solution if all of the elementary schools in the area wanted to combine but they all wanted to stay in their buildings.

55% (the majority) of survey respondents agree or strongly agree with the recommendation to combine the schools:

35% (190) agree

20% (109) strongly agree

By contrast, nearly 40% don’t like the proposal: 15.5% (84) disagree, and 23% (125) strongly disagree.

Note:  Numbers may not add up to 585 because some people skipped question or selected “no opinion.

What we also heard loudly and clearly was that everyone wants a real investment with quality and structure in middle grades education.

We also heard that we must accompany any merger with a strong social transition plan, solid student supports and thoughtful staffing to address the needs of the combined student population.

As I look back over the last 3 years and look at the combinations we have made – Toomer and East Lake or Kennedy and Brown, there are things we certainly should have done better that hopefully we can incorporate into this process.  The process of combining or transitioning schools is not new to us.  We have an entire manual dedicated to this.  That does not mean all the answers are not in the manual.  If you vote to merge these two schools, it is a first reading and then there must be a minimum of 30 days between the first and second vote and we would not recommend a second vote before June 30.

My recommendation also includes the following components:

First, upon the board’s final approval of the merger, we will designate immediately a strong transitional team of school leadership, parents, students and central office representatives.

Their mission will be to ensure a smooth transition for students.  They will help ensure that the merged location receives enhanced resources – such as security, social worker, counselors, etc.  We’ve also added transportation to the list of enhanced services – we understand that and we are prepared to do that as well.

We are also proposing, and this is not new either, that starting July 2014, the middle school and high school principals will lead a six-month discussion with school and community leadership of all the schools in the cluster.

Their mission will be to design the type of rigorous, innovative programming (IB, STEM, STEAM, etc.) that they want implemented at the combined middle school.  They are asking for innovation and I have learned that when I’ve suggested something some found it innovative, some did not.  We want to bring the community together to discuss their ideas around innovation.  During this same period, the same group will collaborate with the district to involve a university partner to help develop a potential teaching lab school agreement.  We would expect the community on the east side of the cluster to propose ideas and a process for repurposing the Coan site.  Starting in early 2015, the process for renovating the King campus will begin.

A series of steps will take place to ensure the community’s involvement throughout all stages of the project before construction begins.  This is a part of our normal process.  The ultimate goal is to ensure that the combined school campus is a custom-designed learning environment of which students, parents, teachers and neighbors can be proud.

We’ve had a lot of meetings around this topic. [Superintendent summarizes the proposal].

I cannot stress enough that everyone from community members to board members is committed to doing the right thing.  The ultimate goal is to create a preeminent middle school for the students and parents of the Jackson Cluster.

Motion on the floor to approve the recommendation. Discussion…

Collins:  From my understanding there were three elementary schools that feed into both Coan and King…

Davis:  That was the initial set of schools with whom we started meeting and that morphed into larger discussions.  We had the LSC, PTA and high school in those early meetings and moved on to include King and its feeder schools as well.

Collins:  What was the discussion of Toomer, Whitefoord and Burgess parents?

Davis:  Initial discussion was around K-8.  I explained that the idea of K-8 would be more plausible if all 3 schools chose to adopt K-8 and moved into the Coan building.  That was not acceptable to the community – to the point that by the end of the discussion the Whitefoord and Burgess community did not want to entertain the K-8 discussion.

Davis explains that the community found the combination of the three schools “unacceptable.”

Esteves:  It appears that we are putting the cart before the horse.  The question is why not have a plan that we can look at and approve.  Why have months of meetings before only to have months of more meetings after?

Davis:  If you notice the manual Dr. Kirijan is holding, this takes complex planning.  The question you ask yourself is that do you invest in complex planning without knowing that is the direction you want to go.  To do detailed planning without a sense of direction is a waste of our time.  We could do it in a vacuum but then the first question from the BOE would be ‘was the community involved?’

Esteves:  Why not bring this earlier in the process?

Davis: Bring what earlier in what process?

Esteves:  There were a couple of false starts…

Davis:  That was a week ago.  I set a timetable back in December and I believe that but for a week ago I’ve done what I said I would do.  I said a week ago we should be where we are now.  I talked about getting further feedback.  This has been a long process that has evolved.  As a speaker noted, it stared with ‘do k-8′ in a sector.  We started there and we could not get to ‘happy.’  Then it started to go…I threw the question on the table…’what does it take to improve and get community buy-in in this sector.’  I mean, if you are for k-8, you are against this.  I do not believe k-8 is not the solution for a tiny population.  We need to make sure we take advantage of the economics of scale.  Do I wish it were sooner?  Certainly, but if you go back to December to my timeline we have met our commitments.

Grant:  One of the pieces we do have a problem with is our transitions and not being cognitive of all of the things that come into play.  This is our chance to get this right.  I am a bit concerned and will be ever more diligent because we are going through a leadership change.  When we listen to the principals at the middle schools and high school they believe that our middle school students need something more well-rounded to get them engaged. [Says that she hopes the IB commitment at the middle school level will be honored].

Grant expresses concern around schedules on Day One of school, test scores and improvement at Coan – that it is not lost, that books are available and technology is working.  Grant goes on to say that culture is the key piece to making this type of merger work.

Grant:  I want to make sure that when we merge schools they earn extra [counselors, AP's, social workers] to make sure we are making the school a healthy place during their transition – these are middle school kids.

Davis:  I appreciate your comments.  If you vote to go forward we will immediately name a transition committee that includes community members, school leadership and those who have gone thru this process.  We understand the Coan piece as it relates to culture and location.

Grant explains that the lack of specificity is about the community deciding what goes into this plan.

Davis:  Correct.  We’ve been down this path before and the community says ‘why didn’t you talk to us.’

Grant:  We are committed as a Board to supporting this as an amazing middle school in the Jackson cluster.  [Explains that Jackson High did not happen by accident].  It is important that we get this done now.  I want to say thank you to the community.  I wish there was more of a consensus around this but we are here today because this is the right mvoe for the Jackson cluster at this time.

Amos:  Having a hard time knowing where to start.  I held my nose and voted for a budget that stinks but this is downright disrespectful.  That manual that was held up was written on the backs of Kennedy Middle students.  After one year of complete Armageddon and no learning taking place at Brown Middle School, I asked what lessons did we learn at Brown and how will we relate those lessons to Parks.  Now we sit here and say 3 years later and say that now that we are going to get it right.  Before we do that we need to honor the people where we got it wrong and at least admit that we got them wrong.  This administration has the inability to take care of our children and that is downright hurtful.  When you propose some of the very same things to this district that the people at Kennedy have been fighting for it is downright disrespectful.  You would have a conversation with one side of town…it is the tale of two cities.  Let’s come up with a different way of doing things.

Davis:  As much as I respect your comments, I am not accepting of the disrespectful comment and I have not said that we got Brown and Kennedy correct.  The Board voted to close Kennedy.  This is not about Kennedy or Brown, this is about a school with 230 students and a principal that is saying kids are not getting an education…I don’t think you can say we can continue having a sub-standard experience for these children.  This is not about Brown.  It is not about Kennedy. The board has spoken on Kennedy and I understand that there are those who do not like that decision and if the board wants to re-open that decision they can.  I will, however, post online as early as tomorrow why I don’t think Kennedy should be opened.  I am advised that people rallied around [Coan] but the board then voted to expand Drew.  The reality is that we have an underutilized school.  But it is your choice.  I don’t think that the fact that it has not been done correctly in the past should influence whether or not we do it for another group of kids.  This is the start of a process.  The process allows you to come back and look at the transition plan.

Davis explains that further community meetings will raise additional concerns and solutions.  Says that closing Kennedy was done for valid reasons.

Amos:  In my opinion there is only one emotion greater than fear, and that is the one of hope.  This BOE must find a way to restore hope in this system. I ask my colleagues that if we start this process that we make sure it is done right.

Davis:  I agree with your comments.

Westmoreland says that he has watched this process from both sides (teacher/community member and board member) and agonized over it.  Says that we have principals who think we can do better as one.  Frustrated to be having this conversation so close to the start of the school year, but will be even more frustrated if children are left in a school that the BOE is being told is not working.

Westmoreland:  I don’t think we are providing hope if we leave things the way they are.

Brown concurs.  Asks that SEACS parent community group be at the table. [Note that LSC, PTA and parent groups have been involved since beginning.] Also asks for representative from every elementary school [Note that all schools are represented on Jackson task force for middle school transformation].

Vote on the floor.

Motion passes 8 to 1.  No from Mr. Amos.

7:38p  Meeting adjourned.

 

April 22, 2014 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE MEETING NOTICE-THE ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION

SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE MEETING NOTICE-THE ATLANTA BOARD OF EDUCATION

April 21, 2014 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

Atlanta Partners for Education recognizes outstanding school-business partnerships during A+ Awards Luncheon

Aplus2014-080The Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE) annually recognizes those heroes who exemplify outstanding business-public education partnerships. The program is sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education, a longstanding partnership between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta Public Schools.

The APFE A+ Awards luncheon was held April 1, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Hotel.  Hosted by television news personality Jovita Moore, APFE honored school and business collaborations that provided successful academic learning experiences for APS students during the 2013-2014 school year.

With a colorful Dr. Seuss theme serving as a backdrop, First Lady Sandra Deal, Ann W. Cramer, APFE Chair, APS Superintendent Erroll Davis, Board of Education Chair Courtney D. English, Metro Atlanta Chamber Education Committee Chair David Scheible and Metro Atlanta Chamber President Hala Moddelmog all took the stage to celebrate the winners of this prestigious award. Aplus2014-059

APFE reaches 50,000 students in 105 Atlanta Public Schools’ learning sites. Those sites include 55 elementary schools, three year-round schools, 16 middles schools, two single gender academies and 25 high schools. Currently more than 400 partners participate in more than 450 partnerships with Atlanta Public Schools.

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April 15, 2014 at 6:54 pm Leave a comment

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