APS parents spoke out about the proposed redistrictings at a public board meeting last night. It is interesting to note how much of the parent reaction in Atlanta replicates the response in DeKalb, where protesting parents caused a dramatic scale-down of the proposed closures and redistricting there.
I would assume that the APS scenarios will be modified accordingly, although Atlanta, like every other district in the country facing demographic shifts, has to address growth patterns and overcrowding.
One argument likely to resonate with the Atlanta board is that school communities are still reeling from the CRCT cheating mess and can’t withstand another blow. As this account shows, some parents are making that argument, and I think it’s a valid one. The management of Atlanta Public Schools is, in effect, rebuilding its reputation and restoring customer confidence, and has to be mindful of that in redistricting.
I have been reporting on schools long enough to know that there is a perceived value in keeping middle-class parents committed to their local public schools. Last week, when the NAEP scores for the urban districts voluntarily participating in a trial assessment were released, two systems stood out for outperforming not only their urban peers, but the nation in math. They were Charlotte and Austin, both of which have kept a socioeconomic mix in their schools.
From the news story on AJC.com today,
I would hate to see this community destroyed,” said Cameron Ford, who was speaking against the rezoning of Bolton Academy in North Atlanta. “I believe redrawing the lines would tear the community we’re in apart.”
Four scenarios were released in late November to start discussions about new school boundaries. Each scenario calls for multiple school closures and for additions or new schools to be built in crowded North Atlanta. School lines across the city will have to be redrawn to accommodate the changes.
But many parents don’t like what’s being proposed. “The past year has been a difficult one for the families of the Atlanta Public Schools system,” said Grady High parent Anne McGlamry. “We were just beginning to emerge from the ugliness of the cheating scandal and the accreditation debacle, when this demographic nightmare hit.”
District leaders have said they are open to making changes, and that the maps were intended only as a starting point. Consultants hired by the district will take the input, modify the maps and narrow the options down to two. Financial estimates for the remaining options will be released, and a second round of community meetings will be held in January before a final recommendation is given to Superintendent Erroll Davis.
The changes will have to be approved by the school board before they go into effect during the 2012-13 school year. Chairwoman Brenda Muhammad said the board is committed to getting public input before making a decision. The board will also consider academic impact and cost.
“By the time everything is evaluated, said and done, the scenarios may not look anything as they look now,” she said.
Melody Cook-Blount said she moved out of DeKalb so her daughter could attend Beecher Hills Elementary, a school listed for closure on two plans. But the school is thriving and should not be closed, even though it is small, she said. “I ask you consider the quality and not the quantity of schools,” Cook-Blount said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog