LIVE BLOG: December Board of Education Meeting – December 2, 2013

Thank you for following our live blog of the November Board of Education 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.

2:16 pm:  Meeting called to order

PRESENTATIONS:

School Closure – Repurposing Committee Update – Steve Smith, Associate Superintendent

The purpose of the school closure repurposing committee is to identify educational and/or operational usage opportunities for the seven school buildings that the board voted to close in April 2012.

The primary objective of the committee is to provide the superintendent a school facility repurposing recommendation plan for each school facility.

Established in May 2012.  Two phases, phase 1:  2012 Board approved closures.  Phase 2:  Properties from past closures.

There are three tiers for usage.  Tier 1 is APS use, tier 2 is charter school use and tier 3 is community interest.

Q&A:

Kinnane:  The tier one, how do we ensure…the tier 2 being the charter schools, how will we make certain within this, there is going to be a changing landscape of which facilities we need to use, how will we plan for that?

Superintendent Davis:  If we need to reserve buildings, we will reserve them and not put them into surplus.

Kinnane:  I guess I’m asking for unforseen needs.  I know we have a plan in terms of the construction plan, but making sure properties are available if the need arises.

Smith:  If we have an administrative use and we designate the building as such, we reserve the right to place an administrative tag on it.  At that point the charters have the right to use that facility.

Davis:  We would have to look back at how many are being reserved at any given time.  Generally speaking we should have at least 2 buildings available to us at any given time.  That is a good point [Ms. Kinnane].

Muhammad:  I’m looking at the Wesley building on page 6.  Under phase 2 properties you list among those there the Wesley building…

Smith:  I see the phase 2 properties.  I see the Wesley building.  It says community use Wesley building.  Your question?

Muhammad:  I want clarity around what Wesley building we are referring to here.

Smith:  Carla Pennyman manages our day to day and speak to the question on the table.

Pennyman:  The Wesley building is on Wesley Ave. behind Coan.  It is a vacant building and at one time was used as a reloaction building.

Muhammad:  Is it just Wesley?

Pennyman:  Wesley Elementary

Smith:  We can list it moving forward as Wesley Elementary.

Butler-Burks:  On page 6 under phase 2 properties, I see both AD Williams and Carey…I am confused as to why the company listed, Northwest Business, is still being considered for both.

Smith:  They are listed in that way because those individuals in the community recommended that use for both of them.

Butler Burks:  This says deferred.

Smith:  Right, we did have the building tour on Nov. 18 which is pending, what we don’t have is the outcome from that tour.  What delayed that process was they wanted a tour.

Butler-Burks:  Is there a recommendation from the community…will they [NW Business] have to choose one?

Smith:  They would have to choose one to utilize.

Butler-Burks:  Is this the English Ave….is this the….I see Mr. Hoskins shaking his head no so that answers my question.

Smith:  In terms of next steps, once the recommendations come from the community we will go thru the process of vetting the physical capacity of the building for the entity requesting the property.  The repurposing committee makes the recommendation to the superintendent and the superintendent makes the recommendation to the BOE.

Muhammad:  That is the next steps for phase 2, correct?

Smith:  Yes.

Muhammad:  You have one here that is open thru 2014…if something else is done differently than what’s here…anything done differently than what’s here comes back to the board?

Smith:  Yes.

Note:  The full presentation will be posted after updates have been made.

Fiscal Update – Chuck Burbridge, Chief Financial Officer

Burbridge:  Right now we have no changes to the revenue or expenditure forecasts.  View the Summary of FY2014 Activity HERE or here http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/cms/lib/GA01000924/Centricity/Domain/1/FY 2014 Financial December 2 Board Meeting 11 27 2013.pdf

END OF PRESENTATIONS

CONSENT AGENDA

Ms. Kinnane is making a motion to look at status of K-8 in the Jackson cluster.  Motion carries.

Kinnane;  I notice we don’t have an update on the superintendent search and this being our December meeting and not knowing where we stand with the timeline…

McDaniel:  I do plan to discuss that.

Kinnane:  Just to see if it needs to be in discussion and action.

McDaniel notes that a special called meeting will take place after the search committee meets.

There are no speakers tonight for this portion of the meeting.

Davis will now read the consent agenda.

Item 2.02

Recommended Action
That the Atlanta Board of Education accept the recommendation of the superintendent to approve the conversion charter petition for Centennial Place School, and that the board chair and superintendent be authorized to sign any documents required for the charter school including, but not limited to, the APS charter agreement, state charter documents, state or federal grant applications, grant budget forms, and minor modifications to the charter agreement.

THE SUPERINTENDENT REPORTS:

On May 6, 2013 the Atlanta Board of Education passed a resolution encouraging the exploration of a public/private collaborative K – 8 pilot program at Centennial Place Elementary. Over the past few months, Atlanta Public Schools Office of Innovation staff and our external partner, Integral New Schools Atlanta, have worked closely together with Centennial Place staff, parents, community members and other stakeholders, developing a K – 8 plan for Centennial Place. The goal of this plan is to give the school greater flexibility, higher levels of accountability, and deeper relationships with external partners targeting and supporting the school’s STEAM focus.

The school will open with 585 students in grades K -6 and add one grade each year until reaching full capacity in Year Three with 775 students in Grades K – 8. The current Centennial Place building will be expanded to serve these additional students.

A conversion charter school model was chosen for this pilot as this model gives the school broad flexibility and sets aggressive performance targets within a site-based management model. Centennial Place will be governed by a local board constituted of members representing Atlanta Public Schools and the Integral Group and other key strategic community and business partners.

Several community meetings have been held to gather community input on this project. As required by law, Centennial Place parents and school staff participated in a secret ballot with two-weeks’ notice and the majority support the conversion plan.

The school has proposed several innovative measures including the creation of enhanced career pathways for teachers, numerous hands-on learning experiences for students and the creation of “Data Days” embedded in the school calendar allowing decision-making to occur immediately following data-collection periods.

RECOMMENDATION:

That the Atlanta Board of Education accept the recommendation of the superintendent to approve the conversion charter petition for Centennial Place School, and that the board chair and superintendent be authorized to sign any documents required for the charter school including, but not limited to, the Atlanta Public Schools charter agreement, state charter documents, state or federal grant applications, grant budget forms, and minor modifications to the charter agreement.

REASON:

Georgia law requires local boards to approve or deny charter school petitions submitted locally within 60 days of submission.

Another vote was taken today and the item passed 108 to 6.

Kinnane:  I just want to say, I think the board knows my feelings on this, when this item was pulled we left that day thinking we would have a board work session around this item.  My first question is around the vote itself.  I asked the question about the number of parents being represented around the vote.  This time there are fewer parents that voted.  I understand it is the day after Thanksgiving, that it is a re-vote.  We are being asked to make a decision to convert one of our exemplary schools into a charter and I don’t think we have a representative number from that vote.  How do you feel about that number?

Mueller:  Typically revotes will have a lower attendance.  This is only my opinion.  It is still right after the holidays and that is a factor as well.  I want to make it clear, obviously I’m not an attorney, but the language in the statute is clear that it is the number of parents present.  If I were a parent and I felt strongly about it in a negative sense that’s when I would have come out to vote.  A simple majority is what is needed to pass this.  That is the law and that is what was understood by the parents.

Kinnane:  The community itself is not allowed to vote on this yet they are being affected by this vote.  I would think not having that large a number of parents that are at the school be representative is a bit of a concern.  My next point of concern about the petition is the governance board.  Let me ask you a question, we have a petition before us…the petition did not change since last month and we cannot change anything on the petition because it has been voted upon, right?

Mueller:  I would have to leave that to the General Counsel.

Counsel:  I don’t see anything in the statute that speaks to that but I will look into it now.

Kinanne:  So the two APS representatives, what does that mean?  Who would be the APS representatives?

Mueller:  The discussion we had internally is that the senior cabinet would nominate 1-2 individuals and then the senior cabinet will choose that person.  We ran it by the state and there is nothing in the law that says that employees of the district cannot serve on the board.

Kinnane:  In terms of the relationship between the Local School Council and the governance board, would there be any restriction disallowing a stronger relationship between the two?  In terms of recommendations coming from the LSC?

Mueller:  You are talking about an entity that is not the governing board recommending individuals to sit on the governing board?  I don’t think that is possible.

Kinnane:  This is a start-up governing board…

Mueller:  I can’t think of an example…

Kinnane:  I guess the concern is how the parents and community members that serve on the board will be chosen.

Mueller:  So you’re thinking that that would be the group to nominate parents?

Kinnane: (inaudible)

Kinnane:  It will be expected that everyone living in the zone can attend the school, but it talks about a number of students.  As the zone grows, if it grows, how will that be handled?

Mueller:  If more children live in the zone the number will be expanded.  In order to have a lottery there would have to be a threshold number.  I don’t think there is a way to exclude children that live in the zone.

Kinanne asks about the choice to attend Inman vs Centennial Middle.  Mueller explains that the intent is that there is no grandfathering to Inman unless the children are currently enrolled there.  If the grade is offered at Centennial Place the students will go to Centennial Place.

Kinnane:  Can you require a child to attend a charter school?

Mueller:  Yes.  If that is there zoned school.

Muhammad:  (inaudible)

Mueller:  It would work like an administrative transfer but would work like a lottery.

McDaniel:  Ms. Muhammad is asking if someone is the Centennial zone and does not want to attend Centennial…

Mueller:  They would need an administrative transfer just like they do now.

Muhammad:  In the traditional schools we ask for administrative transfers for specific reasons…

Mueller:  I don’t think there will be any difference between someone this year who wished to transfer to Benteen and next year, when its a conversion charter, the same criteria would apply.

English:  The difference would be that I am now trying to transfer into Inman which has significant crowding issues.  The point she’s getting at is that if I’m attending 5th grade and want to attend Inman…

Kinanne:  Right now families have chosen to move into the Centennial zone because it is a high performing school in APS.  With this petition, that could change drastically.  It is a different structure than what they thought they would be a part of.

Mueller:  I don’t understand what is meant by drastically.  I see now a deepening of relationships, but a lot is similar to what they have today.

Meister:  Is there any way to modify the charter so that there is a win-win for 4th graders opting out of Centennial so that they can go to Inman for middle school?  That would help us with planning.

Mueller: I think this falls into whether the charter can be changed at this point.  We asked for community support framed in a certain way.  My feeling is that changes probably could be made, but it is possible that they might not be able to be made.

Counsel:  I think this is something that should be discussed in executive session.

Meister:  Was that issue brought up at all in the survey?  Do you know?

Mueller:  I do know there has been ongoing discussion from the beginning.  I believe we articulated very clearly.  I know the question has been discussed between parents, staff…I know its been an open discussion.  My response I sent to folks who asked from the school was articulated that way, if the grade is offered at Centennial, you will go to Centennial.

Butler-Burks:  Is the review 5 years or annual?

Mueller:  There is a 5 year term for the charter but we as a district do an annual review.  The reporting is financial, operational and academic.

Butler-Burks:  So it does not come back to the board annually.

Mueller:  No, that’s once every 5 years.

Kinnane:  Question about the teacher contract piece of it.  My understanding is that the statute says that the teacher contracts would be held thru the school system..but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Mueller:  The waiver dictates what can go in the contract.  My understanding is that that cannot be waived.

Conversation now taking place around teacher benefits and plans.

Kinnane:  So the teacher, in terms of what it states in the petition, that 75% of the teachers will have math or science…be highly qualified…what does that mean for present and future teachers?  They are not going to be all math and science classes at the school.  It seems like a high number of teachers when we traditionally have a hard time getting teachers in those fields.

Mueller:  I think that as the school grows they will need to focus on hiring math and science teachers.  I don’t know if you are imagining that that they will fire the teachers who don’t.  They have always been a STEM/STEAM school.

Kinanne:  I just wondered because it seems like a high number.

Muhammad:  There has been so much focus on…a lot of questions…why would you say that as a school system this would be a good recommendation for us to try?

Mueller:  In reading this, what encouraged me, first of all I like the conversion method.  You are actually encouraging folks that work in the district…they get a little autonomy and sharper focus.  That really seems to be to me something we should invest in.

Mueller explains the innovative facets of the school and that they have been working towards this goal for 18 years.

Butler-Burks:  [Compliments Ms. Kinnane for her diligence on this issue] We’ve been on this for an hour and had we had a work session we may not have been here.  Thank you Ms. Kinnane for combing thru the petition and coming up with some questions that are still unanswered.

Kinnane:  When Centennial came into existence it was given freedom and unique opportunities so that it could grow in a unique way and not go to a conversion charter.

English:  The school went from being in the top 10% in Georgia to being ranked 894 out of 1100.

English says that the school has lost leaders, Muhammad says the school has lost resources.

Davis:  We are trying to run a pilot that compares governance.  Is performance a function of governance or structure?  That is the question we are seeking to answer.  We want to have a pilot so that we can inform a future policy.  We want to run a limited pilot here.

Kinnane:  I don’t think it is a pilot when we are talking about the approval of a charter petition.

Davis:  We are talking about one learning site with this structure out of 90+ learning sites.

Mueller:  If there were another conversion charter that came down the pike, it would come the way this one did.  This is not a slippery slope in that sense.

Muhammad:  I want to make sure we are not leaving Toomer out of this.

Davis:  We are talking about traditional board governance in the Jackson cluster.  K-8, but different governance.

Muhammad:  I think the fact that we are having to go thru this is speaking volumes.  I think it is saying that we need to revisit how we are doing what we are doing at our schools and are we meeting the needs of all of our kids.

This item has been moved off of the consent agenda.

Item 9.05 Construction Status Report

CLICK HERE to view the latest construction report or visit http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/files/9DLRVR6DE333/$file/Dec_2_2013_Const_Status_Report.pdf

Item 2.02 has been pulled for executive session, Item 2.03, gains and losses for discussion and action.

ADDED ITEM TO THE AGENDA

Update on K-8 in the Jackson Cluster.  Ms. Kinnane has requested the update today or at least by the next meeting of the board.  She would like to see a plan of action and timeline for this plan in the cluster.  “It is never healthy for a community to live in limbo.  They need to know where things are going.”

Davis:  We’ve had a number of community meetings and I am waiting for one additional piece of data and after that I will make a recommendation back out to the community this month for comment.  It will go to the community for comment and then board for action.

Kinnane:  In that there will be a plan of action, something so that we not only know what the recommendation is but also when it will happen.

Davis: Yes

Kinnane:  Thank you.

OLD BUSINESS

Superintendent Search Committee Update

McDaniel:  The committee met in November and was presented with approximately 15 or so candidates to the closed session.  The search committee reviewed those names.  All 15 have been talked to.  We will meet again on December 17th after they have vetted those candidates and we will continue narrowing down candidates.  It is my recommendation that this board meets as soon as possible after December 17th so that the board.  We would want all board members present at that meeting between December 17th and 19th.

The board will now enter into executive session.

6:18pm – Board meeting continues with public comment.

Washington High Parent requests that her child be moved out of Washington High School and into Carver Early College due to health conditions.  Says that only Carver EC can address her child’s academic needs.

Community member says that traditional schools need the autonomy that charter schools have.  “Give traditional schools what they need.”

Toomer Elementary Parent:  My daughter is currently in kindergarten and I would like to ask the board to support the proposal of K-8 at Toomer.  I understand parents are concerned about the impact to the Jackson cluster as a whole.

Toomer Elementary Parent:  I have a 4th grader and kindergartener.  I’ve watched parents as they struggle with the choice of staying at Toomer vs going to the other myriad choices of middle schools that they have.  Toomer being able to offer K-8 will make a big difference in our school.  We need APS to do their part and I see that it is not on the agenda tonight.  We are asking for a slow adoption, we have submitted a wonderful plan. As parents and the community we’ve done our part and we need the board to do their part.

Toomer Elementary Parent:  I am here to promote the K-8 model at Toomer.  I think Toomer is an amazing school.  We had a really rough year last year with the merging of East Lake but we’ve come back strong.  I think we are a perfect place to do the K-8.  We have a great core body of students even though we have lost many students to Drew.  The reason we’ve lost many students to Drew is that they don’t want to go to middle school at Coan.  I feel we need to become K-8 because we were in a really great place before redistricting and we need that extra core thing that will make us stronger.  I certainly, along with the parents here tonight, we’ve been working very hard for this, but we all have our heart in this school and want to keep it going.  The momentum will get lost without this.

Kirkwood Resident:  I come to speak with you with no children in APS schools but I chair the Kirkwood education committee and I really believe that sowing the seed early will yield great results down the road.  I for one could not argue against the Drew Charter expansion.  I believe that Drew is doing a lot of excellent things, but I’ve seen how it has impacted my community and neighbors.  Our community is tight knit and I am here to advocate for K-8 at Toomer.  If you provide the opportunity for K-8 at Toomer you will not regret it.

The next speaker is principal Alison Shelton of Centennial Elementary School.  She asks for support from the board as Centennial seeks to become the district’s first conversion charter school.

6:35pm Parents continue to speak out on behalf of K-8 at Toomer Elementary School.

Community member, who is a former history teacher, asks that the board of education considers precedent when deciding to convert Centennial to a charter school.  “When a group of parents and teachers manages to convert a school into a charter school, parents are faced with the decision to accept the lead of the charter or to transfer out of the school and hope that they can find transportation.”  She says that simply because the process is legal, does not make it right.

1965 graduate of David T. Howard High school speaks to the board about his experiences as a student in the district.  “History and literature teachers would almost go into acting mode to put you in the mood for the lesson.”  He asks that the Howard building be put back into service.  “I would also like to thank Brenda Muhammad.  For 14 years she has been a fierce advocate for our children.”

D.H. Stanton Community Advocate:  Stanton is rising.  We have worked on this school as a community.  We have embraced it when faced with a challenge and our embrace has not weakened.  We have an excellent dual immersion program at the school as well as the Leader in Me program.  We are also working with Graduation Generation.  We have a few outstanding items, including the early learning center.  We hope we can get issues on this resolved in the not too distant future.  Stanton has become that small school for innovation and as we move forward we have an excellent opportunity to leverage a small school and do those things we know will be successful.

Washington High Alumni Association Board Member:  I came tonight to personally thank Mr. Davis for correcting the situation at Washington High School.  I had an opportunity to walk through the school with the president of the alumni association and had a chance to see the work that was done at the school.  I would like to personally thank him for correcting the issues.

END OF PUBLIC COMMENT

7:00pm

Board now discusses Centennial K-8 conversion charter.  BOE member Kinnane says that she will not vote in favor of this item.  “I don’t necessarily think we’ve done our due diligence around having the first conversion around this piece.”

Kinnane:  Having a vote with less than 200 people does not set a good precedent when it comes to taking one of our schools and turning it into a charter school.

E. Johnson:  I also have a concern about what the governance board will look like.

Vote taken.  Passes.  Centennial Elementary School has become the district’s first conversion charter school in the history of APS.

This ends our live blog for the evening.  Please watch the legislative meeting beginning tomorrow night on Comcast’s channel 22.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s