LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Meeting – May 5, 2014

VIEW THE MEETING LIVE:

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Thank you for following our live blog of the May 5, 2014 Board of Education  Meeting for Atlanta Public Schools.

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

The public can now follow the Committee of the Whole and Legislative meetings via the LIVESTREAM link above.

REFRESH your browser often for updates.

The meeting will begin soon.  Tonight we will update the live blog with highlights from the Committee of the Whole and Legislative Meetings.  The Community Meeting will follow our usual live blog format.

2:13pm:  Meeting should begin shortly

2:15pm:  Meeting called to order

Superintendent gives opening remarks.

English:  Mr. Davis, will you please bring the work session items.

Davis: Mr. Chairman, we have three (3) presentations today.

Good afternoon.  Pleased to point out that this meeting is being streamed live online!

Today, we’re doing a soft launch of the new feature

Before the official launch, the communications and external affairs team needs to test the feature and problem solve any technical glitches

Invite everyone to try out the feature by visiting atlantapublicschools.us/livestream

This week is a special week for teachers around the country.

The week of May 5 is National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Teachers are being honored for the amazing work they perform every day in the classroom.

We would like to show our appreciation as well.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s pause for a brief special video presentation.

Please roll the video.

*Technical Difficulties* Link to video will be posted shortly.

Before we hear the rest of the work session presentations, let me outline a few updates.

Student Attendance

After tonight, only 14 school days left in the year for traditional schools

Last day for traditional schools is May 23

19 more school days left for year-round students

Last day for year round is May 30

Reminder to parents that attendance during these last days is important

Teachers will be providing students with activities to minimize “summer learning loss.”

Principals will also be holding end-of-year events that celebrate student achievement and instill school pride.

Hope to see EVERY student in school through the last day

Now for the board’s work session presentations.

To begin, Mr. Louis Erste, Associate Superintendent for Policy and Charters – Georgia Department of Education will give a presentation on Flexibility Options.

Presentation now taking place from the Georgia Department of Education on “Flexibility Options.”

Flexibility Presentation from GDOE:  http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/cms/lib/GA01000924/Centricity/Domain/1/PDFSchool System Flexibility in Georgia – APS – May 5 2014.pdf

Financial Presentations from Chuck Burbridge:
FY 2014 Financial Presentation – http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/cms/lib/GA01000924/Centricity/Domain/1/FY 2014 Financial May5 Board Meeting 04 29  2014.pdf

Special Revenue Funds Primer Presentation –
http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/cms/lib/GA01000924/Centricity/Domain/1/PDFSpecial Revenue Funds Primer.pdf

Davis:  A moment ago, we recognized teachers.  In addition, I wish to express my personal appreciation to other APS employees.  There are several national observances:

April 23: Administrative Professionals Day

May 1: School Principals Day

Again, Week of May 5 is Teacher Appreciation Week

May 7: School Nurse Day

Again, the work our teachers and principals perform is nothing short of amazing.  The support they receive from nurses, administrative professionals and other APS employees often goes unacknowledged but is certainly valued.

Last month, the board approved the FY15 general fund budget that serves as the district’s spending plan from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.  Several outstanding budget-related items to be decided.

The Reality: System has been struggling with years of decreased local and state revenues

Hardship on employees: no COLA since FY09, no step increase since FY10, furlough days every year since FY11

I know it’s difficult for employees to feel valued against this backdrop.  However, situation is turning around as we have done a better job controlling costs, protecting our fund balance (savings), making sure our financial systems communicate with our teacher allocation systems, prioritizing our support of classroom instruction.

Board and administration united in our commitment to give all staff a well-deserved pay raise.  Details still being finalized.

Recently, I announced a hiring freeze

Also freeze on purchases of items over $1,000 – except existing commitments, such as contracts, RFPs and other written agreements.  Hiring and purchasing freeze in place so that incoming Superintendent Dr. Carstarphen will have flexibility to make organizational changes.  She and I are in communication/working together to ensure a smooth transition

Let me use this time to clear up some confusion about the hiring freeze.  What is the effective date of the hiring freeze?

I announced the freeze April 16, 2014. The freeze became effective immediately as of this date. During the freeze, why are there still gains in the monthly gains/losses report?

We’re moved forward on hiring people who had already received offers. We’re allowing exceptions for positions that directly affect student engagement — such as teachers, principals, graduation coaches, school administrative personnel, bus drivers, food service workers and custodians.

Also, I have approved other exceptions for departments that could justify that they had a critical reason to fill a vacancy.

Upcoming District Community Meetings

Public hearings regarding the closure of Coan MS and its merger with King MS:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Both meetings will take place at the original site of Coan (1550 Hosea Williams Dr.) in auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

Continue to follow our livestream: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/7427971/events/2962762

4:22pm Work session has now concluded

Committee of the Whole meeting now beginning.

Minutes approved.

English would like to add discussion about the Washington cluster under new business.    Motion approved.

Amended agenda approved.

PUBLIC COMMENT:

SPEAKER:  (Comments sent into Talk Up APS by employee for posting) I come before you today to put a face to the 13 positions being recommended for abolishment in Facilities Services.

I’m a Mother, a Wife, a member of the community, a volunteer in the schools and most importantly a dedicated Atlanta Public Schools Employee for 9 years.

Today, you are being asked to authorize the abolishment of 13 positions within Facilities Services (report no. 13/14-5125. ) Now to many people the number 13 is insignificant when compared to the total number of employees within Facilities Services or Atlanta Public Schools.

Albert Einstein once said, “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”

My fellow colleagues would agree with Albert Einstein, Abolishing our 13 jobs would in effect carry the same burdens and injustice of abolishing 500 jobs.

Before your make your decision today I want to leave you with eight reasons why you should reconsider this abolishment.

  1. For Four or more year’s raises, steps and cost of living increases were frozen. The board voted for raises and in response to this the leader of Operations and Facilities Services are abolishing position. How is this justified? How is this fair?
  2. Facilities Services has 15 or more vacant positions that could have been absorbed and thus preventing abolishment of filled positions.
  3. In other departments, classified employees with more seniority were able to bump other employees throughout the district with lower seniority
  4.  Prior to 2009 there was only one Director of Maintenance in Facilities and now there are two. Over the last four years the Director of General Service’s responsibilities have decreased, and  yet his position remains intact.  Custodial operations was removed from him – Warehouse services was removed from him – Grounds is now 100% contracted – HVAC was recently outsourced – There are currently only two roofers.
  1. Almost two years ago the Office of High School was dissolved into the 4 regions. Yet there remains five Regional Maintenance Managers. Why wasn’t one of their positions recommended for abolishment?
  2. There are currently Five Male Regional Maintenance Managers and I am the only woman Manager in Maintenance. I have more seniority than all my male colleagues. Throughout my course of employment with Atlanta Public Schools, I have performed the same or more duties as my male colleagues. Lastly, I’m a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Therefore, I am qualified to perform any job within Facilities Services. Why am I being considered for abolishment?
  3. If the Maintenance warehouse and warehouse tech’s are no longer needed, why are they building another maintenance warehouse?
  4. The majority of the 13 employees recommended for abolishment are in some of the lowest paid positions within Facilities Services and Atlanta Public Schools.

I leave you with this from Ghandi “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.”  Please use your conscience when voting this evening.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

Board has entered into executive session.

6:30pm Board has returned.  The community meeting will now begin.

Presentations:

Stephanie Johnson, principal of Maynard Jackson High School, introduces the members of the 4th place (state) girls track team! Way to go girls.

Grady High School Speech and Debate Team for their 5th Varsity State Championship.

They are one of the largest debate teams in the south.

Excellent presentation from students who recently performed The Tempest.  Learn more about their performance here:

NOTE:  Updated Gains and Losses Report now posted http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/files/9JTUMB7CB089/$file/Gains%20and%20LossesMay2014(Edt2)%20-.pdf

6:57pm PUBLIC COMMENT now beginning

Student Speaker:  I attend Kennedy Middle School.  I have been let down so many times I’ve lost count. I am sick and tired of thinking that the ones I thought loved and cared about me really didn’t.  I know life is not perfect, but we can make it a better place.  I want this life to be a better place.  Think about a time where something or someone who motivated and helped you was taken away, you felt broken and lost, that is how we feel when you take away Kennedy Middle School.  Keeping the school open will make this community a better place.  We count on one another to graduate and be successful in life.  You may think that this is a bad neighborhood and this is a bad school but Kennedy has helped me to grow in life.  Kennedy has helped me.  When I come to Kennedy it feels like home, not everyone has a home.

Second student speaker also asks that Kennedy MS remain open.

Third speaker makes a passionate plea to keep Kennedy MS open for her sister and the other students in the neighborhood who will follow in her footsteps.

Speaker:  Growing up, my mother was a cafeteria worker.  I am here today to show my support for APS cafeteria workers and bus drivers that are an important part of our community.  No one can take our liberty, we offer it in protection of our children.  {AFSCME donates $750 to the APS WolfPack adaptive sports team}

Speaker says that bus drivers were not notified of the hiring of a new Director of Transportation.

Speaker says that he is a bus driver who has not received a response from the superintendent, head of operations and others.  His email said that he wanted to bring forth safety concerns at a particular school.  Says he reported seats thrown out of a moving bus, hard objects thrown at driver while driver, APD being called out to escort school buses.  “There are certain routes that need monitors.”

Speaker:  Those of us who are on the front lines need to be on the front lines to make transportation safer and cafeterias healthy.  There is this discussion about establishing an employee council, but you know what, we already have an employee council and it is our union.  Right now, management is just going thru the motions and little is being accomplished.  We could do so much more with less if only there was a committment to work together.

Cafeteria worker says that hot food isn’t kept hot enough and cold food is not kept cold enough.

Speaker asks that Booker T. Washington’s transition be conducted with the same support being given to other schools in the district.

7:43  Taking a short blogging break

7:50pm  Speaker:  I am here today to speak about the inequities at Towns Elementary School.  We don’t have new computers, parents are asked to bring in copy paper, we don’t have books and there is a hostile environment.  A child was put on a daycare bus when she was a car rider.  The police were not called during 2 attempted abductions.  Is this the way you as Board members want our kids to be educated?

English:  What our policy states is that at this point we should continue with our committee of the whole and then onto our legislative meeting.  However we began our community meeting 46 minutes late so I suggest that we proceed with comments for an additional 46 minutes to make up for that time, we will then go into our two meetings, followed by more comments.

–BOE members agree–

Speaker:  This is the first time I’ve been to the school board.  The way you all are closing down these schools doesn’t make any sense.  I think that our school could use a better principal than the one you picked.

Speaker from Mays High School cluster asks that classroom sizes be made smaller, not larger.  Pledges to keep the community informed about the actions of the BOE as it relates to class size.

Speaker:  Sometimes it seems that you think schools exist to support finance instead of finance being necessary to support schools.  When you do that you look at things as assets, that includes students, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and teachers.  You participated in the discussion earlier about [school flexibility options] and it would be illogical or irrational to choose anything other than status quo.

Speaker:  In order for me to get a bill passed, I have to get 90 votes.  All I’m asking for today is for 5 votes to make sure we keep Kennedy Middle School open.  What we are trying to say is that this a community effort.  That is why we as elected officials have come together and are saying we need 5 votes to keep Kennedy open.  I was in the first graduating class of Kennedy Middle School and an honor graduate of Booker T. Washington.  This school has the support of Georgia State, the AU Center, Georgia Tech and others.  We are trying to stay in the community and uplift the community, not trying to be pushed out of the community.

Multiple supporters continue to speak on behalf of Kennedy Middle School.  Current speaker asks that we not “lose this moment of transformation.”

Speaker:  In 1972 my office was at Kennedy MS.  I was a case worker at that time.  This building was built to help stabilize that community.  To have it taken away will continue to create a demise in the community.  If I had a magic wand, I would make sure that school is vibrant and a part of this community as it needs to be.

Speaker:  I moved to the west side in 1926 and from that time to this there is one thing I can say, our schools have been this community’s most valuable asset.  I am here to support this coalition by asking you to keep Kennedy open by keeping with its original purpose as a multi-purpose center.  We want you to know that the people there presently have been working hard, the principal – the community and the students to improve their performance and behavior.  As a 1937 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, we need Kennedy as a supporter of our high school.  I am going to implore you to do the right thing and not bow to politics.

Student says “I will no longer let anyone play trial and error with my education.”

Speaker:  I want to say one thing about Kennedy-Brown. I want us to think about an opportunity to vision and think about that building and for the community to have input in that process.  I want to speak to you about something that happened recently – as I sat there crying, watching the Harper-Archer story on the news – I’ve been an advocate for special education in APS for a long time and I don’t think we’ve done enough.  We have just not done enough.  We were honored to have a meeting, about 20 of our special education parents, with Dr. Carstarphen and it was good but we have a long way to go.  We need a strategic plan around special education and we need to analyze what we are doing, how we are doing it and how will we do it better in the next school year.

–end of public comment–

Livestream will begin again shortly.

Please follow the Livestream of the Committee of the Whole meeting here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/7427971/events/2962762

10:35am – Legislative Meeting is now beginning.  Please tune in to the livestream feed or watch the meeting on APS cable channel 22.

–end–

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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