Atlanta school board set to vote Monday on closings, consolidations. Opponents rally.

Opponents are rallying against proposed school closings.

Opponents are rallying against proposed school closings in Atlanta.

Atlanta Public Schools’ Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has recommended closing and consolidating elementary schools in east and southeast Atlanta to address half-empty buildings. She maintains the money saved by consolidation can go to improved instruction and services.

The school board will vote on the proposal Monday.

Under the plan, Benteen Elementary in the Jackson cluster would close and be absorbed by the D.H. Stanton campus. Whitefoord Elementary students would split; those from the Edgewood community would go to Toomer Elementary, while students from Reynoldstown would attend Burgess-Peterson Academy.

In the Mays cluster, APS would close Adamsville Primary School and restructure Miles Intermediate as a PreK-5 school. Some Adamsville students would be redistricted for West Manor Elementary. In the Douglass cluster, APS would change school models and reconfigure schools.

These recommendations will likely see some fine-tuning as each has unique challenges. However, the school board appears poised to approve the overall blueprint. Opponents are rallying this weekend against it, including a march Saturday morning at the Collier Heights Plaza.

Here is a piece from community member Melissa Wardley about her neighborhood’s concerns over the proposed changes:

By Melissa Wardley

In an era where Atlanta Public Schools should be unified as one to fight against government takeover, vouchers and school choice, we are torn over the proposal to close our public schools by our Atlanta Board of Education.

We plan to march Saturday at 7 a.m. to make our voices heard and to loudly say “No” to this plan. We have joined forces under the banner of “Save Our Children.” We are a group of parents, grandparents, and community members.

“We say #VoteNo” is our rallying cry and our message to our community elected members of the APS school board, which will vote Monday on Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s plan to close, merge, redistrict and restructure schools in the southeast Atlanta.

We have complied a list of reasons why the board should reject this plan:

•There is no evidence the proposal will improve student performance given it would lead to larger class and school size. Research has shown that larger class size contributes to low student performance and would not improve student behaviors.

•The turnaround strategy has not been given time to produce conclusive results. We have suggested a two-year moratorium but that has not been considered.

•There is no long-term plan for how to use the empty school buildings, which will create blight, lower property values and attract criminal behavior into our developing community.

•We disagree that closing, merging, redistricting and restructuring will create competitive schools. Instead, this unproven approach will add to the APS history of destructive trial and error strategies tried year after year in our communities and on our children.  We will not stand quietly by and allow our children and teachers to be cheated again.

 

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Thank you, Melissa Wardley.

Now, Carstarphen is doing what Harvard trained her to do, Skinner-style.  Early on, Carstarphen said:

“I have been trained to do this school turnaround work.”

Unfortunately, the many South side people whose children stood to be most negatively affected heard Carstarphen say that but few understood the meaning because to be “trained” is such a big part of their life experiences and aspirations, I suggest.  Kind of like what Stephen Covey said: “Fish discover water last.”  So in this sense, Carstarphen selfishly took advantage of the people.

The problem with only being trained, as opposed to being educated, is that a trained person will tend to apply the tools she has been trained to use.  Been trained to only use a hammer even when the need is to place a screw?  Carstarphen is applying Harvard’s “school turnaround” hammer to APS, when what APS needs, has always needed, and will always need, is the smooth, continual momentum of a screwdriver applied to the screw.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

APS has been using too many school buildings as an excuse for failure for far too long. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the "we're built for 100,000 students" plaint rolled out. Let's look at history, courtesy of the Georgia Department of Education :20 years ago - 59,143 FTE; 15 years ago - 57,724 FTE; 10 years ago - 49,716 FTE; 5 years ago - 49,032 FTE; today - 50,837 FTE. APS has been grossly overbuilt for more than 30 years, the period 1970-1990 when the City lost 21% of its population.

It's obvious APS has not done its job with too many buildings and it's unknown whether rightsizing the number of buildings will improve the outcome. But we know the status quo that this author advocates does not work. High time to do something different.






EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@BurroughstonBroch

Thank you for going at Carstarphen’s "we're built for 100,000 students" self-serving ploy.  It is typical of her narcissistic behavior in that “the problem is always out there, with them, and never in here, with me.”  At one point, she took to plat-out lying, saying: “The state required us [meaning, me and the school board] to select a new operating model.”  The state required no such thing.  They had the option of staying “status quo.”

The “status quo” is not working simply because it, like “school choice,” is not about improving anything.  It is only about changing things.  But “to change” is not a synonym for “to improve.”  Carstarphan has been trained to do change, so in not competent to do improvement.  She and “her” school board revealed themselves when they brought Daryl O’Connor, a change management consult, in to one of their retreats instead of an improvement consultant.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Another analogy:

APS' need is a round hole in a board.

Carstarphen was taught by Harvard that a square peg is the solution for every problem.

So Carstarphen is trying to beat her square peg into APS' round hole with a sledgehammer.

Look for Carstarphen to be gone before next school year begins.

jlwhite
jlwhite

It is evident by the comments that you view the community as one of self imposed blight with crime and drugs. While yes those communities have to determine to 'do better', they will have to fight for better education to afford some changes.  


Carstarphen and the ATL Board of Education were given a mandate by the people who govern them, the Chamber of Commerce, to push, move, squash the communities that serve the children in those neighborhoods. So basically they are doing their job not to aid the children.


South Atlanta has seen more closures and corruption (Thanks for Hall Chamber of Commerce) than any section of the city with the administration always pointing at dwindling attendance and numbers or poor test scores.  Lets look at the dwindling numbers. Some changes came about when the now failing choice offered in the state run charter school was pushed into the neighborhood.  NOTE it is on the failing list.  Some parents took that option but the schools in the Mays/Douglas sector witness parents removing them from that school and placing them back into schools now targeted to close.  In one meeting Carstarphen said that the demographics were changing.  Not so, the number of single parent homes did not decrease.  Also, West Manor is an old, very old building that will not hold the swell of kids reassigned.  And, they do not have property allowance for building out or trailers.


 Then there are the poor test scores.  First the kids are blamed then the teachers but never the administration.  Thanks again for Hall, I was part of the parents screaming that something was wrong.  Carstarphen is on the same ledge with poor administration. If you are not on her team then you are out.  And, this was evident with how she tried to explain away her treatment of a principles report on how well her kids had progressed.  Let's remember that they were investigating her secret meetings before coming here.  In none of the meetings have they given the parents a true academic report.  They can't because they are still in 'turnaround' mode.  They can not tell us if the progress is good or bad.  NOTE LP Miles came off the list this year.  There is no plan in place to improve the academics at the schools.  


Suggestions: Since your northern half is doing so much better and given so much money to do so - flip the teachers, counselors and some administrators.  All are under contract with APS and are not guaranteed to one specific school.  Change out Smith for Adamsville or Beenteen for Beecher. Or, APS, you can actually take the lead and model teachers and counselors so that they can deal with the slow learners or the poorly prepared and their parents.  See what happens.  


At others who think Wardley is just blowing steam.  She is speaking for children.  And, she is not alone.  It is a lot of us educated people in south Atlanta that is tired of being pushed in a corner or having our kids lack because of political agendas.   You all don't live in our communities and could, obviously, care less.  

ErnestB
ErnestB

DeKalb went through this a few years ago, with schools in the Columbia, McNair and Towers clusters being impacted.  In several cases, schools were consolidated into new buildings.  Though there were obvious cost savings with respect to personnel (primarily administrators), I don't know what the impact has been on student performance.  Maureen, this might be interesting to look at.


@Lee_CPA2 made a great observation as to what happens with abandoned school buildings.  My recommendation would that unless a charter wants to set up shot in a building, tear them down and build a park on the site then lease it to the city or county.  This way, if the housing patterns change, the school system has the land to build another school.  Everyone can agree that we are not producing anymore land and I would not sell the property.  This assumes involvement with the impacted community.

Annie
Annie

Although I sympathize with those who have schools closed in their neighborhoods, the overall lesson here is that communities must own the responsibility for keeping their neighborhoods drug and crime free so that people will want to live there. This is not just a school district issue.  This is about community renewal and taking responsibility for your own surroundings.

proudparent01
proudparent01

Carstarphen is doing what is best for the district. These schools are tiny and unsustainable. Merging schools and changing attendance zones is difficult and political but the city of Atlanta is changing and APS needs to change to meet the needs of its students. 

jlwhite
jlwhite

@proudparent01 She is doing what is best for the northern district.  She has no interest in the southern part.  I would love to see real, true academic change in APS but is too political.  

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

"... fight against goverment takeover, vouchers, and school choice..."? APS is government run and has failed for decades. Vouchers and school choice are anathema to teachers' unions but not to parents looking to improve their childrens' education.

The author wants to retain the failed status quo, and for what real reason?

Astropig
Astropig

@BurroughstonBroch


"The author wants to retain the failed status quo, and for what real reason?"


Good question-but don't expect any answer.I suspect that it's because the author has some little shred of influence or perceived status in the community and they don't want to lose their pathetic little ability to sway the parents.Why else would they deny these families a choice in their kids education?


People like the author are the very reason that these schools are closing.Instead of making these schools better and demanding accountability and excellence,they have waited until there is no other rational choice but closure to show any interest in their existence.


Families want to buy homes in places with good schools.It's a little too late to have marches and print up flyers for a few days of rage when you've let your neighborhood school drift into mediocrity.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

One thing to consider is that a continuously occupied school is grandfathered against many of the upgrades required of newer schools.  Vacate a building and allow it to sit empty for a certain period of time and the district will have to bring it up to meet ALL codes before you can reuse it.  Often, these upgrades can cost millions on an older building, rendering them all but useless as a school building.  Sometimes, even the building site does not meet the requirements

One of those "GOTCHAS" that nobody thinks about until it bites them in the butt.

Astropig
Astropig

@Lee_CPA2


Very true and a good point.I've run into just that problem a time or two,though never with ex-school buildings.I'd say that it's not such a bad thing to get these kids out of what can be unsafe situations and into more modern structures.


The biggest issue that I would be worried about is antiquated wiring,lead paint abatement and unrecognized asbestos contamination (in really old buildings).Also, there are floors and other surfaces that are saturated with cleaning chemicals and insecticides that used to be common,but are now no longer in use.


If they are really old buildings,shut 'em down. We can do better.

TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

@Lee_CPA2 That's not the case here. All of the buildings in question are up to code. The only one that is in need of a serious upgrade is the Harper-Archer building, and Carstarphen's plan -- from what I've seen -- calls for a major renovation of the building so that it can become a new elementary school in the Douglass Cluster. 

Cobbsiders
Cobbsiders

So Meria Carstarphen may be working in league with Secretary of Education DeVos and parents to empower them with greater choice? Or the chance to escape failing neighborhood schools?

Is that the charge here?

Cobbsider
Cobbsider

@Annie 

You assume Wardley's opening paragraph swipe at school choice was just proforma union blather.


jlwhite
jlwhite

@Cobbsider @Annie Carstarphen is our own DeVos, but educated.  She is for school choice and charter schools.