APS and Fulton reach pact on poaching student case involving Riverwood high. Awaiting judge’s approval

Thanks to a Get School poster who sent me a note today that the case of the poaching school had been resolved. Back in the spring, Atlanta Public Schools filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court seeking to stop Riverwood International Charter School — a Fulton high school that sits in Sandy Springs just over Atlanta’s northern boundary — from recruiting city students.

The issue in contention was funding since the APS students who moved to Riverwood brought along their funding. In its lawsuit, Atlanta alleged that Riverwood was recruiting and enrolling students from Sutton Middle School and North Atlanta High School, which it maintains violated state law. (Here is one of my first posts on this story for deeper background.)

The tip led to this new AJC story:

Atlanta and Fulton County have tentatively reached agreement to end what Atlanta officials said was the systematic recruitment of students away from city schools.

The agreement comes in response to a lawsuit filed this spring by the city system over a Fulton high school’s enrollment of students who otherwise lived within Atlanta’s boundaries. At stake: State funding that follows students when they move from one public school to another.

It would allow about 100 Atlanta students currently enrolled at Riverwood International Charter School to stay and complete their education, spokespeople from both systems said. But it would bar new enrollment by city students unless the two systems reach a formal arrangement.

The agreement must be approved by Fulton Superior Court Judge Michael D. Johnson.

Riverwood, which has about 1,400 students, is a conversion charter school, which means it operates under the purview of the Fulton school system but with greater freedom from the rules.

The school’s charter agreement allows the school to accept out-of-district students on a cost reimbursement basis. That means it can charge tuition to make up for costs that otherwise would be paid for with local tax dollars. Riverwood is charging some Atlanta students $8,000 a year in tuition.

The Atlanta system filed suit in May. The suit followed a ruling in April by the Georgia Department of Education, which said Fulton needed to have a memorandum of understanding with the city school system in order for Riverwood to enroll Atlanta students. The two systems have no agreement now.

Fulton officials have said the school has not enrolled any Atlanta students since receiving the Education Department’s letter in April.

95 comments Add your comment

Dunwoody Mom

July 28th, 2010
6:44 am

Interesting. I wonder if DCSS is aware of the the number of Dunwoody students that are enrolled at Riverwood?

Color me confused

July 28th, 2010
7:20 am

As I said back in March, Riverwood got bit on the behind by its charter status!

“A student from outside the school system in which the local charter school is located may not enroll in that local charter school except pursuant to a contractual agreement between the local boards of the school system in which the student resides and the school system in which the local charter school is located.”

N. Springs Charter High School has kids from DeKalb as well as Riverwood. I wonder what Fulton will do. Will they stop these out of district admissions as well?

Disgusted Mom

July 28th, 2010
8:00 am

My son was accepted (we are out of the district) and ready to start at Riverwood 8/23. We just received a phone call from Riverwood principal 2 DAYS AGO that a judge ruled in favor of APS and would no longer be accepting new students, starting now. They should have at least waited until next year to start this. What a crock! Our kids should be able to attend a better school if it’s affordable to the parents. Our public school system is bad enough without this crap.

Color me confused

July 28th, 2010
8:18 am

Disgusted mom

Are you an Atlanta parent or DeKalb (or another system)?

Attentive Parent

July 28th, 2010
8:35 am

This ruling shatters children’s and families’ lives with very little notice and the AJC decides to misrepresent what it was about to inflame sentiments further?

“Poaching student case”?

How about APS’ claim that the case was about their right to decide how to educate anyone unlucky enough to have purchased property within Atlanta’s city limits?

Fulton has announced that it will teach math content first and APS insists that its schools must engage in the discovery activities set out in the Instructional Frameworks they wrote.

Was APS’ lawyer really arguing that they have a constitutional right to teach Hula Hoop Math to your child whether it results in any learning or not?

KL

July 28th, 2010
8:35 am

Can’t wait for the first parent lawsuit to be filed, citing infringement on the student’s right to select his/her education at the charter school.

Frankly, I think the charter schools should be allowed to enroll kids and receive the tax-support dollars. There is a reason people want to leave their current schools – the schools are failing the kids. So, rather than prop up a failing system, force the system to make fundamental, sweeping change that results in higher student achievement.

Agree with Disgusted Mom – the kids accepted for enrollment for 2010-11 school year should have been permitted to enroll and institute the ban to prevent future new enrollments until there is a pact.

Children First

July 28th, 2010
8:58 am

Riverwood has never “recruited” or “poached”. They have an open house, parents come, they apply. I’m still puzzled by APS being so worried about less than 100 kids that they would go to court – they are not “their kids”, as the APS attorney tried to claim. I hope my school district doesn’t refer to my child as “their kid.” Scary

Attentive Parent

July 28th, 2010
9:00 am

Howard Gardner himself wrote in his 1981 book The Unschooled Mind that it is the higher performing children from motivated families who can do well with the type of discovery learning APS repeatedly mandates in it schools.

Gardner credits that to the “readiness” skills in organization, focus, and learned behavior for school settings that these students get from their homes.

This describes to a “T” the families that were an issue in this litigation. APS wants the credit, graduation rates, SAT scores, etc from these families even though it insists on using instructional methods that are not effective with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

See http://cogtech.usc.edu/publications/clark_guidance_chapter_2009.pdf for some of the extensive research on this point.

Disgusted Mom

July 28th, 2010
9:05 am

Color Me Confused: We live in the North Atlanta district unfortunately. I’m still in shock.

Dunwoody Mom

July 28th, 2010
9:06 am

@Children First – exactly how do you think these parents of out-of-district and out-of-county “hear” about Riverwood and the “Open House”? There are certain neighborhoods that are targeted. Why do you think Sutton Middle and North Fulton HS are involved?

Math & Science Teacher

July 28th, 2010
9:16 am

Didn’t you know that peasants are supposed to be tied to the land…

East Cobb Parent

July 28th, 2010
9:50 am

To Dunwoody Mom, I’ve heard about Riverwood through word of mouth and even checked into sending my kids there. No one “targeted” our East Cobb Sub. Parents that have a vested interest in their kids’ education seem to find other parents with a vested interest and compare information.

North Atlanta district parent

July 28th, 2010
10:01 am

Disgusted Mom: You knew Sutton and North Atlanta were fighting this during the last school year and that this would probably happen so don’t act so shocked.

Dunwoody Mom

July 28th, 2010
10:01 am

@East Cobb Parent – did I say they “targeted” East Cobb? Are saying that Cobb County students are attending Riverwood as well as Fulton and DeKalb?

Color me confused

July 28th, 2010
10:13 am

I think N. Springs actually advertised to let people know they were able to accept students from outside of Fulton County.

Teacher Reader

July 28th, 2010
10:21 am

I don’t understand why parents cannot send their child to the best public school possible. Does the virtual charter school poach students from counties as well? Charter schools allow parents choices in their children’s education. No child belongs to any district. Parents deserve choice when their local schools continue to fail the children year after year. Our government continues to work to keep the population uneducated and unknowing. Parents need to look out for their children, or their children will end up 18 without receiving a quality education. Very sad.

AlreadySheared

July 28th, 2010
10:21 am

This tiff is reminiscent of the concept of a “hostile takeover” of a corporation. Such a takeover is characterized by hostile by the management of a company when said management did not solicit the takeover bid in question. However, since stockholders OWN the company, and not the managers, there is in reality no such thing as a hostile corporate takeover. The company’s managers confuse their STEWARDSHIP of the company with OWNERSHIP and act (and react) accordingly.

Similarly, the owners of educational services are students and by proxy their parents. Public school bureaucracies have come to believe that they actually have a RIGHT to educate the students who live in their attendance zones; if not that, then at least a right to the TAX MONEY that those students bring with them. Once again, there is confusion between STEWARDSHIP and OWNERSHIP.

A modest proposal is HALF. Let the greedy bureaucrats keep half of the money that goes with a student, even if the student doesn’t attend his or her local public school. Let the other half of the money follow the student to the school of his or her choice, wherever that is. Somehow, we are able to provide college students with money (state college support, HOPE scholarships, guaranteed students loans, Pell grants) for education without forcing them to attend specific schools. Senior citizens manage to use public Medicare dollars with the healthcare providers of their choice.

Lets stop confusing WHAT we are paying for (children’s educations) with HOW we pay for it.

Attentive Parent

July 28th, 2010
10:22 am

Aren’t most of these affected kids students who have never attended an APS school? They just live in APS and have paid taxes to fund APS for years and also private school tuition and then they wanted to go to this high school?

I find this story to be ironic on the same morning my inbox is buzzing with parents concerned now that the State DOE has apparently decided to make Support Math 3 a core, credit bearing course counting towards graduation in order to avoid the graduation disaster this new math was going to create for the state.

Let’ come up with a list of the myriad ways APS and state DOE officials are coming up with to obscure the truth that discovery math and science and whole language mandated reading instruction work poorly and create disastrous declines in test scores.

Is it lost on anyone that the goal is for the new subjective and thus more obscuring national assessments under Common Core to be in place for the 2014-2015 school year?

So these affected 9th graders with involved, willing to pay extra and drive them to school, parents of the type Gardner described, will graduate in 2014 and the next fall we are to have new types of assessments to measure whether students actually know anything. How convenient.

catlady

July 28th, 2010
10:24 am

Disgusted Mom–you’ve got a month to make other plans. Surely you already had a plan b since you knew it was in litigation?

I feel bad for those whose schools are so awful. Why don’t the dissatisfied APS parents get up a charter school for themselves?

East Cobb Parent: It’s called social and cultural capital.

Dunwoody Mom

July 28th, 2010
10:24 am

Why did Riverwood disregard the law and its own charter?

lynn

July 28th, 2010
10:31 am

The Virtual Charter Schools are not granted their charter from a school district, rather GA Virtual Academy is a state chartered school and the others that will open in the next 12 months are going to be commission schools that have charters that allow for students from across the state.

Cere

July 28th, 2010
10:40 am

I’m sorry, I don’t see how, at it’s core, this is so different from AYP (NCLB) transfers. Why is it ok in one case to leave a school due to low performance and take a federally-mandated transfer to a ‘passing’ school (even going so far as to require the receiving school add trailers to accommodate the gain in students) yet in this case, students are forced to stay in their home school even though this school has room and actively seeks additional students? What about HB 251? Isn’t this the “competition” among schools we proclaim to seek?

AlreadySheared

July 28th, 2010
10:41 am

lynn

July 28th, 2010
10:46 am

The difference is that both AYP and HB 251 transfers are limited to transfers within the district. HB 251 originally included transfers between districts but that was struck early on.

parent power

July 28th, 2010
10:56 am

Dunwoody Mom please remember a little history. DHS won some football, baseball and basketball games with Riverwood, N. Springs and other Dekalb students for years so please look in the mirror first. As for the N. Atlanta parents, you are defending a school that did not make AYP, continues to fire coaches, has a high rate of teacher turnover and the majority of the students enrolled at Riverwood never attended the APS schools they were districted for anyway.
Ten years ago, Riverwood was worried about kids leaving their school for a variety of reasons. You know what they did? They built from within. A solid administration, a strong educational program, competitive athletics, growing school spirit and improved facilities. As a N. Springs parent I have watching some of my daughter’s friends chose Riverwod for a variety of reasons and I understand and appreciate that. If N. Atlanta wants to keep students and even convince some to choose N. Atlanta over private or othere public schools, do something to make your school more attractive.

sarahp

July 28th, 2010
11:16 am

Maureen, would this sort of thing also apply to City of Decatur schools since they are a charter system? They take a lot of out of district kids for tuition. Would a charter system be considered differently from a charter school?

Color me confused

July 28th, 2010
11:32 am

That is a good question, one I was wondering myself.

Also, can you find out if Fulton is going to generalize this decision to include DeKalb and Cobb students whose families are paying tuition at Riverwood and/or N. Springs?

parent power

July 28th, 2010
11:38 am

Dunwoody parents seem to forget all of the Riverwood, N. Springs and Chamblee kids that were recruited to play on Dunwoody sports teams a few years back. Please look in your schools’ recent past Dunwooody Mom before you throw another stone. GHSA did…

As for the N Atlanta parents, stop complaining and do what Riverwood did. About 10 years ago when my daughter was at N. Springs, Riverwood was in dire straits. The school has a host of issues. They built from within with a new and stronger administration, a competitive academic schedule, retained quality coaches and faculty, and improved thhe facility. They created an atmosphere where kids can be successful and actually want to be there. The test scores are high, AYP gets met and it is a different place from where it was a decade ago.

If you want to keep kids at N.Atlanta, give them a reason to stay. Get good teachers and coaches that stay in the building, continue what you have started with your facilities, and instead of complaining about what you are not, boast about what you are.

An advocate for public education change & choice

July 28th, 2010
11:38 am

As noted this concern boils down to one issue and one issue only, Public School Funding!!

Ironically, the core of this dispute strikes along the lines of ongoing dispute between local systems across the state and the charter schools authorized to operate within those juristictions.

The deal to me seems simple to resolve. First do away with the prohibition againest intra-district transfer. Second, until the fundemental question is resolve to produced a refined funding model, allow the per pupil allotment shift with the student based on the source system. If that doesn’t cover the target systems total per pupil cost allow those systems to define their own procedures to cover the gap (purhaps parents pick up the difference).

Bottom line, there is middle ground that would allow families a greater degree of choice than what they enjoy today. The intra-district competition in certain ways will drive the overall quality as each district will be forced to address the root cause of the choice for institutions outside of option zoned within the district.

An advocate for public education change & choice

July 28th, 2010
11:40 am

@KL and other: I tend to agree with your point. If they rescue my responce from the filter please you will see an expanded observation.

An advocate for public education change & choice

July 28th, 2010
11:43 am

@Lynn: Your absolutely correct about HB251. To expand your point many districts wrote district procedures (see Cobb and others.) that in effect squashed the intent of the bill even for intra-distict transfers. Basically nullifying the law. More pressure needs to be placed on local boards to address this point. More freedom for even intra-district transfers could drive some meaningful change but local boards seem hell bent to do everything they can to prevent any hint of market competition to creep into their thiefdom.

An advocate for public education change & choice

July 28th, 2010
11:46 am

@ Dunwoody Mom: With all the problems occurring in the DeKalb they probably figure its one less thing to be concerned about.

oldtimer

July 28th, 2010
11:47 am

Parents ought to be able to place their children in any school they choose…And their tax payments should follow their child.

what to do

July 28th, 2010
12:04 pm

Disgusted mom, join with the other moms and make yourself a royal pain in the behind at North Atlanta. Organize a picket at the school as one thing APS hates is bad publicity, especially coming from parents. Everything one of your children tells you that’s in violation of something, report it. Make yourself more trouble than it was worth to go to court over you; that’s the only way to deal with the type of mentality you are dealing with.

catlady

July 28th, 2010
12:08 pm

Still in the filter from about 9:20 am

HS Teacher

July 28th, 2010
12:10 pm

If a student’s family wants to pay extra to attend any different public school, I see no problem with that from any perspective. I honestly don’t understand why APS was upset. They still got their money from APS tax payers, didn’t they?

I only have a problem with the ‘voucher’ system.

Reality 2

July 28th, 2010
12:13 pm

As long as there are school districts – instead of one state-wide district, and there are rules, then schools should follow the rules. Parents who want to send their kids to a school in a different district either must move or send their kids to a private school. It is their choice, but don’t expect one district to pay for your child’s schooling in another district. The school tax we pay goes to a county.

catlady

July 28th, 2010
12:14 pm

I think it would be fine to let people take their children and their school tax money wherever they want to go. In my case, I would have about $380 to find a great school for my child(ren). (There are 2 private schools in my county, and the nearest charter school is 70 miles away). I am sure in some areas the school tax paid by the individual is much higher. Still, even if your school tax is $4,000 per year, what private school will you go to? Or what public one will take you, bringing that kind of money?

catlady

July 28th, 2010
12:23 pm

You would have to be sure the school would accept your child, and has room, then notify the local BOE where to send the money. Of course, once paid, you are locked in to that choice for the year. Actually, the more I think about it the better it sounds. Get rid of the complaining parents (even if complaining for a just reason) for the cost of whatever they actually pay in school taxes. Just be sure you know what you are asking for. It also means additional levels of government bureaucracy to be paid for, which some folks are quick to complain about.

Lynn

July 28th, 2010
12:52 pm

The transformation at Riverwood began when they didn’t make AYP. However, the efforts didn’t just come from parents, faculty and administrators inside the school, efforts came from community members concerned about both their property values and the education of all students there. Much effort has gone into reinventing Riverwood.

However, success begets success. Lots of students from private schools now attend Riverwood. When other parents see this, it makes this option seem appealing to them. Many of these students are from affluent, educated families and have helped pull up Riverwood’s cache.

Lots of schools could learn from this.

Attentive Parent

July 28th, 2010
1:45 pm

Both APS and the Georgia DOE have received tens of millions of dollars in the last 15 years mandating a discovery approach to learning. Affected APS parents may want to look into the PRISM grants and the Atlanta Systemic Initiative and the incentives created.

Thus when APS has allowed charters, they stipulate precisely what curriculum materials and types of classroom activities and instruction must be used.

See http://public.doe.k12.ga.us/DMGetDocument.aspx/Neighborhood%20Charter%20School%20Charter%20Petition.pdf?p=6CC6799F8C1371F62B219A8B1B177706AC77CF806D74C899E6120F1D07BFD178&Type=D as an example from 2007. I’ve linked this before but it seems relevant to this discussion.

If HB 251 previously had an interdistrict transfer provision which was removed and Atlanta legislators were involved in the removal, how is it they could portray APS as the wronged party in Monday’s hearing?

When Riverwood became a conversion charter in summer 2008, I believe it simply kept doing what it had always done with respect to enrolling students. I believe I have been told that its charter allows it to accept these students.

Why didn’t APS send a letter as soon as the conversion occurred telling Riverwood not to enroll its students?

What changed in the interim period? Any ideas? Why now?

cobb mother

July 28th, 2010
1:46 pm

My daughter also did not get into Riverwood until 2 weeks after it started last year. Then we got the call, that they had a spot for $6,300. She had already made Cheerleading at Campbell. So she choose to stay at Campbell. It was supposedly the first year that Riverwood had too many in District applicants. We would have paid to go to Riverwood over Campbell. Now when our house ever sells, we will move to Riverwood. I will jump for joy to be away from the non-functional Cobb County School District.

I should have been the parent and over ridden a 14 year old and told her she could sit out a year of cheer leading and go to a year at a better school.

The same reason I didn’t want her to be at Campbell and the other parents don’t want their kids at Northside is the Ghetto factor. I am not a racist. It is plain and simple. When your child goes to the freshman dance and they only play vulgar rap music at a school function, you have all the proof in the world why the school did not meet AYP.

Maureen Downey

July 28th, 2010
1:50 pm

@Cobb mother, I have been to private school dances and to dances at suburban public schools. They all play vulgar rap music. Because it is what kids listen to, and it’s what they want to hear.
Maureen

Teacher #3

July 28th, 2010
2:09 pm

If only parents with children in schools pay school tax, then they can take their money to whereever they want. However, that is not the case. The school tax we pay is the social responsibility we share to educate all students in the district. Thus, the money does not belong to the parents. So, they shouldn’t be allowed to take that money to another system or a private school.

Really?

July 28th, 2010
2:16 pm

What do you want to bet they don’t play vulgar rap music at the Ron Clark Academy?

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

July 28th, 2010
2:41 pm

Despite some posters’ love for the Ron Clark Academy, using figures from the AJC for enrollment and revenue, they paid $40,000/student. That’s Emory money.

An advocate for public education change & choice

July 28th, 2010
2:55 pm

@ What To Do: You are spot on, APS especially hates bad pub from parents in North Atlanta which is the crown jewel area of the system.

@sarahp: Its my understanding that Decatur City as a charter system (like Marietta city) side steps the arguement by requiring familes of out of district transfers to pay tutition which many gladly do. So in effect its quasi-private.

@Really? Ron Clark Academy doesn’t exist on the High School level, not many school dances at the middle school level. Further, I would contend High School is were the rubber truly meets the road. Nevertheless, I would like to see Ron Clark’s approach at the High School level to see what outcomes it produces. Sounds like Riverwood has some lessons to be learned from also.

Choice

July 28th, 2010
3:00 pm

I think that one thing many are forgetting is the QBE formula. A lot of money goes to other counties from the more wealthy ones. Therefore, the money allotted per child is the same. So why not allow a child to go to whatever school he or she wishes to attend?

Choice

July 28th, 2010
3:06 pm

Federal funding: 9.7%
State Funding: 39.27%
Local Funding (goes into the QBE to ensure equal education): 39.27%.
http://www.audits.ga.gov/rsaAudits/download/10689;jsessionid
Even if there is an adversity to sharing money, that was taken care of with QBE. I don’t think it’s the money; I think it’s the high achieving students’ parents who want better for their children, and their “home” schools want to keep the high achieving students in their districts to raise the almighty test scores.

Children First

July 28th, 2010
3:11 pm

To Dunwoody Mom: Riverwood is a logical alternative for many families whose kids attend Sutton….it is geographically convenient as well as being an excellent school. Many of the APS families at Riverwood live just as close, if not closer, to Riverwood than they do to North Atlanta. APS kids have been coming to Riverwood for quite a few years — the only reason this became an issue is that Riverwood became a charter school and APS hinged its argument on a provision that has rarely even been noticed. If Riverwood were not a charter, this would not have become an issue. I honestly do not believe Riverwood is “recruiting”, but its reputation is known in the north Atlanta area. They don’t need to recruit or fight to “educate their own kids in their own way”, as APS is arguing. They attract students on their own merits.