On April 10, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) decided to close seven schools for many reasons, some say for a political agenda, others say inequities.
Kennedy and Parks Middle School, Capitol View, Cook, East Lake, Herndon and White Elementary Schools will be closed because APS will have a $46 million deficit in 2013 and $120 million loss of property and sales tax revenue for the past 4 years.
Erroll Davis Jr. (Interim Superintendent) stated Atlanta needs "dollars (to) fuel this engine" and the "commitment is not buildings, but children." Atlanta’s real issue is "inequities" of programs, which "all takes resources."
Steve Smith (Associate Superintendent) stated after many "personal attacks" the questions on "why (the) north did well" was because of the northern Atlanta higher graduating "cluster model."
Smith felt to "close any school (is) never easy...students (have) done nothing wrong," and had nothing to do with race or the cheating scandal, but "everything to do with quality education."
Courtney English (At Large Seat 7) believed APS is telling the community to “to trust you…is a long stretch.” He asked if the community helped to reach this decision before spring break, or was it reached “in the 11th hour?” Davis said it was an “evolving process.” English worried of a “domino effect” that would adversely affect other areas with closures, and wanted more time.
Brenda Muhammad (Educational District 1), asked about Davis’s constant use of the term “evolving issue.” She believed closures in her district were not given time on this “evolving issue;” and believed Davis’s use of ‘evolving’ was either in the context of “achieving” together – or “a scheme.”
Muhammad asked why would APS not allow the community to prove itself; like others, through meetings on their resources and remove this closure vote off the table.
She would have made the same recommendation years before moving into this community, but she seen they have grown. Muhammad could see a future Morningside or Parkside, but “I don't thing they got a fair chance.”
Muhammad asked Davis-- what was a stable school cluster? Davis’s cluster was not to “suggest class warfare” or others should “feel my pain,” but “what they (north Atlanta) have and can we get you that?” APS can save with larger stable school clusters. Since Atlanta has “tiny schools” that are “expensive to maintain,” larger school clusters will allow for “academic consultation.”
Parents told Davis at previous meetings that their children had “great grades” in middle school, but once they got to high school “they were not ready.” The cluster model will make clear their “higher expectation” from middle school and elementary principles, but also parents and students. This “may not insure success, but will give a plan for success,” Davis said.
Davis believes APS can “never solve inequities in society.” The problem was previous APS structures treated “everyone the same” based on formulas and since “No Child Left Behind is dead;” now “we focus on need.” If students are in gifted classes, his cluster structure will create “staffing based on need.”
Muhammad ended by stating “Mr. Superintendent I submit to you, when you say that 'our focus is on the children and not the community.'…The children are the community. We would not have community, if we didn't have children?”
More questions came from over 40 audience members.
Cleta Winslow (Atlanta City Council District 4) believed communities cannot survive with closed schools and fire stations. We “learn firefighter’s saves lives (and) teachers saves children.” Winslow asked why APS was supporting charter schools over public schools.
Mr. Crabtree noticed 3-4 charter schools, being opened in West Atlanta.
Dr.-Pastor Kenneth Augustus Walker, heard of closures on spring break, and “smells politics” – a “political move.”
Walker stated that “children matter...community matters,” have they “walked in these communities?” It was “reckless” to rush to judgment on closures, since APS was voted in to help children “not clean out our children...Children are not cattle!” He told APS to leave Towns alone or he would “raise money to vote you out of office!”
Mr. Dean woke up feeling it was “an April Fool's joke” to close Stanton. This was politics in its “worst form,” since “these are real kids…real people not numbers.”
Alexus Means, an 8th grader at King MS, asked if our “board members are more focused on how we can close schools, instead of focusing on how can we save these schools.” “Don't treat us like pawns” in a game.
Ms. Turner believed APS was involved in a “movement to privatize our schools…(a) private school agenda,” by some right-wingers, because “public school (was the) great equalizer.”
One man that worked on engineering models to solve problems, said APS had “no risk analysis” and should “do proper homework.”
Stacy Merkerson, a parent of Towns said “we don’t want you to leave our communities in a situation, where our property (values) go down more and then we have nothing to offer for people to move into our neighborhood.”
Mr. Lynch heard Davis saying he “can't stop inequities,” but he should not create them.
Ms. Wise said “children deserve a smaller class environment,” while another woman called this “blatant gentrification.”
Mr. Young was more concerned with “human capital (to) have more value than buildings;” and wanted children to “not be statistics in the criminal justice system,” through the school-to-prison pipeline.
Mr. Rollen, a 3rd grader at Stanton was told by his reverend to “never stop until you succeed...(to) be obedient...(but also to) love thy neighbor and love thy school.”
Ms. Jackson, talked about opening a Summerhill school and knew Dr. Howard Grant (board Executive Administrator). “We need a school in Summerhill (in 1954)…(we) begged,” so she and others got one through a signed petition.
One Reverend noticed that these closures, brought people on “the same page…We need to come together to save our city.”