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Inman Middle Task Force Members Issue Crowding Report

On Oct. 2, the Task Force continued its discussion on the 6th grade vs. 8th grade academy options to ease crowding at Inman. This report is was done by the two task force members who represent Mary Lin Elementary.

 

Readers, the following is a meeting summary released by the Mary Lin Elementary representatives to the Grady Cluster Middle School Task Force. An earlier posting gave the impression that it was released by the full task force.:

The Inman Task Force met Tuesday, October 2, 2012.  The facilitator, Mr. James Wilson reminded the task force of Superintendent Davis’s 2 questions: 1) whether a 6th or 8th grade academy was preferred, and 2) where should it be located.

After a few questions, the taskforce started to identify benefits of each configuration.

 Some benefits of a 6th Academy are: grade levels in middle school are already separate, 6th graders do not play APS sports, studies show that 6th grade is a pivotal year in identifying students at risk of not graduating, it provides an opportunity to look at 7th and 8th grade differently (such as virtual learning, higher level classes), it gives the 6th graders an opportunity to get to know each other, studies show that the earlier a cohort is together, the easier later transitions will be, the North Atlanta Cluster has a 6th Academy and we can work together and learn from their mistakes.  Some cons listed were that extracurricular clubs could be limited because of a smaller staff and that the middle school music program would need to be changed. 

In the midst of this discussion, it was also mentioned that it will be essential to articulate concerns to APS, regardless of which grade level would become the Academy.  These concerns include transportation, staffing, support, administration, sports, and extracurricular activities.

After significant discussion, Facilitator Wilson noted that the group seemed to be leaning in favor of a 6th grade academy over an 8th grade academy.

Mr. Wilson distributed a document that identified all the households with students currently at Inman Middle School.

Toward the end of the meting, it was decided to discuss location, as some task force members stated that depending on the location, their preference for which grade level was at the Academy would alter.

A list was made of possible locations. 

This list includes: building or expanding on the current Inman campus; 10th and Monroe; Bass Fields on Moreland; Howard; Walden; Piedmont and Rock Springs; Beazer Homes (behind Johnny’s Pizza near Habersham; Callanwolde; Amsterdam Walk; and a northern expansion of Piedmont Park.

At the next meeting, the task force will discuss the possible locations in greater detail, including acreage and buildability.  When asked, Mr. Alva Hardy stated that a 4-5 acre site could work for 450 – 500 students, but that field space and parking would be limited.  If we also want the school to have a gymnasium, more acreage is required.  He also stated that existing APS properties automatically receive a waiver from complying with many state requirements, such as site size. 

The full minutes of all task force meetings and handouts are posted on the APS website at http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/Page/29002

Again, we are asking for your comments and thoughts regarding the Superintendent’s charge.  What configuration would give us the most flexibility for the future? And where should it be located?  To the extent possible, our goal is that whatever solution the Lin Community supports, this solution will put an end to conversation about redistricting Lin out of the Grady Cluster and 2 middle school option for at least the next 7 to 10 years.

You can email both Jeff Shaw and Lori van Rossem a inmantaskforce4lin@hotmail.com.  We will take your comments to the taskforce for consideration.

John Wolfinger October 08, 2012 at 09:51 AM
Am glad to see that the former Howard High and Walden Middle School sites are still being considered - on land that we taxpayers already own. But, who put Callanwolde on the list of suggested sites? Is this not in unincorporated DeKalb County and outside the city limits?
vh3 October 08, 2012 at 12:31 PM
This is not a full report of the task force meeting and leaves many discussion items out. This is a document posted only by the two Mary Lin task force representatives to further the goals of their community at the expense of others. Notice at the end the real point of this misleading report: to "put an end to conversation about redistricting Lin out of the Grady Cluster and 2 middle school option for at least the next 7 to 10 years." These options are exactly what is best for the VH community. Yes, Howard and Walden are already owned properties, but why should we support busing our children out of our neighborhood solely in order to make room for kids from much farther away?
APSParent October 08, 2012 at 02:37 PM
How disappointing that Patch would publish this — misleading the community into thinking this is an official "Inman Middle Task Force Issues Crowding Report." This is quite obviously a Mary Lin report -- written with their own slant and gain in mind. Where in the world did Patch get this biased, misleading report? Not only are many cons collectively gathered by the task force omitted in this so-called report, but it skims one of the most productive moments of the Oct. 2 meeting when Cecily Harsch-Kinnane announced that APS does indeed own the upper fields at the current Inman site and can build there. As vh3 stated, there are other APS-owned properties, "why should we support busing our children out of our neighborhood solely in order to make room for kids from much farther away?"
Ivan October 08, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Let's remember how we got here. We had a very public redistricting process where everyone had input. However, Davis decided not to decide on the middle school problem for Grady because it was too toxic. Instead he said he'd form a taskforce from all the effected neighborhoods - sounds reasonable. Then two or more months into the taskforce when no one was looking he decided he'd made up his mind and there would be an annex - this was effective in that it caught everyone by surprise, was not approved by the Board, skirted the public redistricting process, cemented Davis' role as an all powerful decider and shut down any opportunity for the neighborhoods to provide constructive feedback. So, if you agree with an annex you see this as OK because the ends justify the means. If you don't agree with an annex, you see an evil Superintendent and an incompetent Board that do not care about the neighborhoods. That's how we got here. Now we have to deal with it.
Jim October 08, 2012 at 05:10 PM
The "Me First" attitude of Mary Lin is disappointing. Where is the common sense? Why waste more tax dollars to build a new school when you can just redistrict Mary Lin to Coan and solve half the problem?
Barbara Baggerman October 08, 2012 at 07:17 PM
The academy idea is a waste of time and money, and destroys the cohesion of the middle school experience. What's needed is a second middle school at the Howard or Walden sites. It's stupid for Grady High to have only one middle school feeding into it. The Inman population is so large that it's detrimental to all kids. They need a smaller middle school population where they can have an identity instead of being lost in the masses, and where each school is a sensible, manageable size.
Inman parent October 09, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Inman will NEVER be the same school it was before this year. That is a given whether there is an annex or a new middle school. Candler Park needs to understand the positive things that a new middle school offers for the students. A new middle school has a lot to offer- state of the art facilities (look at SPARK), full range of after school activities, less time being on the bus, smaller grade sizes, more opportunities to be on sports teams and more engaged administration (because they will not be split between campuses). Mr. Davis has said that redistricting ML is off the table so that is just not an issue.
Ken Edelstein October 09, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Commenters are right to complain that Patch tagged an email from 2 TF reps intended for Lin parents as if it were an official report. (Though the source is corrected now, it's still an odd publishing choice.) But it doesn’t make sense to blame Lin reps for Patch publishing it. It’s also unfair to fault the reps for sending a report to parents in their zone — or for representing their community, just as other TF members do. Of course Lin parents hope the second MS idea is behind us! Every Lin group (that I know of) backs a shared, equitable solution. They’ve consistently opposed a second MS (whichever two Inman zones end up being cut out) because other possible solutions have good track records and won't create losers. Now that APS has again come down in favor of an academy, parents across the cluster want to move forward on the hard work of planning for success. Yesterday, I was jazzed at how pleasant it is to walk from 10th St to the skatepark on the Beltline. I’d love for APS to find a spot along that stretch for a 375-student academy— so convenient to Grady-Inman. There are good arguments for other locations, too. All the more reason for parents, especially TF members, to avoid digging in for an option that's been rejected — and to stop demonizing one area for standing up for its kids just as others are. We have a chance to plan for a successful school. If we don’t, we'll be ceding our influence — and sewing discord that bodes poorly for the future.
Chris Murphy October 09, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Because it's a public school system, not private school?
Chris Murphy October 09, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Because those "farther away" kids are also zoned for Inman?
Chris Murphy October 09, 2012 at 01:58 PM
What you've seen is Davis' reaction to the "Inman community" turning in on itself and not being able to come to any consensus across neighborhood borders.
Chris Murphy October 09, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Because Coan, even with M. Lin students, still wouldn't fill half of that building?
Chris Murphy October 09, 2012 at 02:03 PM
The cluster's MS population is too big for it's current building, but too small for 2 MS's to satisfy state funding requirements- one of the aims of the redistricting. That's not the only sticking point, but part of it. If a kid doesn't have an "identity," that's a personal problem, not a school-size problem.
vh3 October 09, 2012 at 02:46 PM
@Ken - you say the ML community backs a "shared solution" - yeah, right - as long as it conforms only to what the ML community wants! Let's be clear - this annex idea is in no way a "shared solution". This annex is an example of the communities north of Ponce getting exactly NONE of what they want (smaller schools in safe, walkable neighborhoods) so that the ML community can get EVERYTHING it wants (to stay at Inman come hell or high water, no matter what the costs, in dollars and in damage to our kids and communities). Let's at least be honest for once about what this really is, and it's no "shared solution". What a bunch of hogwash.
Ken Edelstein October 10, 2012 at 01:43 AM
@vh3 A "shared, equitable solution" means what is says: A solution that's shared & equitable. APS has asked the TF to offer community input for a cluster-wide academy — a solution that by definition is shared & equitable. It's a solution under which M'side & Cent aren't forced from Inman to create a comparable 2nd middle school. It's a solution under which Lin & Hope-Hill wouldn't be forced to build a 2nd MS (with the challenges rooted in a high disadvantaged pop.). It's a solution that lets 6th graders attend a smaller school than a 3-grade MS, following a model successful elsewhere. It's a solution that's less costly than underusing Inman to divert kids to a tiny new MS. It's a solution that keeps Inman-Grady strong by feeding from 3 of Atl's 5 most successful elementaries. It's a solution that continues the Grady tradition of extending opportunity to kids from less advantaged neighborhoods (rather than creating a less-diverse enclave). It's a solution that doesn't void those values in favor of just one: some parents' refusal to consider driving (or walking) for 1 yr half the distance that many other parents drive already. And it's a solution that need not demand even that sacrifice — if those concerned about keeping 6th near Inman advocate effectively on its merits. Digging in one's heals & demonizing whole neighborhoods won't keep 6th grade near Inman. But it could throw hurdles in the path of community input needed to make this shared solution successful.
intownmomma October 10, 2012 at 02:25 AM
We were considering keeping our boys in public school through high school, but no more! We would never send our kids to APS's new mega-middle schools, schools so large that they have to be split across campuses. My kids would have to fight for the chance to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities, and who knows if they'd manage to get into sought-after electives. And the school population will be so large and transient (only one year with one set of administrators, two years with another) that administrators will not be able to get to know the kids and deal with discipline problems the way the have historically. It is a disaster in the making. I don't know why anyone who is even considering public school would choose one of our neighborhoods over City of Decatur at this point. APS is probably hoping that enough families will opt for private school that they won't have to worry about capacity issues in future. There's no other way to explain the choice of these ridiculous mega-middle schools. They'll make the middle schools so unpalatable that everyone who can leave will leave. Some might come back for high school, but I imagine most won't. A lot of good families will leave, which will hurt all those who remain. I suppose APS is also happy that they'll be reducing educational disparities. If educational outcomes for those at the top fall, the disparity lessens. Cynical, I know. Everyone is a loser under this "shared solution."
Ken Edelstein October 10, 2012 at 04:09 AM
@intownmomma Just a reality check: This year, that "mega-middle school" you're talking about would have 339 kids in the academy and 650 kids on the main campus. Morningside has more than 800 students. Decatur's only middle school — Renfroe — has well over 700 kids. Also, partly to address capacity issues, Decatur last year opened its own two-year academy (in its case, 4th and 5th grades). Parents, teachers and students appear to love it.
Great Schools October 10, 2012 at 03:17 PM
@Ken: The concern is about GRADE size. No one, not even you I suspect, prefers giant GRADE sizes where kids become small fishes in big ponds. Inman is already at 340 6th graders, with projections to reach 450-500 in each GRADE. Not ideal for middle schoolers--it's a tough age. There's no comparison to Renfroe which has less than 250 kids per grade (per your data above). You may be willing to sacrifice and accept large grade sizes, but don't fault others who find it to be too great a compromise. Just a few years ago APS advocated MS in the 500-700 range (three grades) via the Build Smart program. Now they seem to prefer mega schools. What a shame!
Ken Edelstein October 10, 2012 at 08:25 PM
@Great Schools Actually, APS projects that 6th grade at Inman will stay below 400 until the 2018-19 school year. The highest projected number (2021-22) is 476. Currently, the trend lines are running BELOW those projections (Inman 6th grade is more than 9% smaller than projected; the combined feeder elementaries are about 3% below). It's a flawed analytically to compare Renfroe today to Inman projected 10 years from now. Apples-to-apples: Renfroe this year = @240, Inman this year = 339. With Decatur's rapid growth, Renfroe's pop will grow too. For perspective: Marietta 6th has 600 kids, and is wildly successful & popular. It's AYP equals those of conventional MS's with 30% lower economically disadvantaged population. I'm not advocating a 600-kid grade. Not saying that's some sort of "proof" that the model is superior. Just trying to get you to challenge your own strongly held assumptions by taking a look at the data & real world examples, and to get the conversation away from being fueled so much by anger.
Great Schools October 10, 2012 at 09:28 PM
@Ken, so....we agree: Inman's grades are much larger than the example you gave of Renfroe, and Inman is projected to grow much larger (I said 450--500, you said 476). I'm not familiar with Renfroe's projections but I'm willing to assume they will grow too. But the point I'm making is that large SCHOOL sizes are not mitigated by separating one large grade from two other large grades, then calling each one a smaller school/annex. GRADE size matters as much or more as school size in the limitations it puts on a child's chance to know and be known by teachers, counselors, peers, administrators; chance to participate in sports, clubs, school plays, etc. The existence of other mega schools like the Marietta 6th does not mean mega schools are best for kids. I believe almost all parents would prefer smaller grade sizes. Unfortunately, a mega school is what we are getting whether you or I like it or not. So, we are left to figure out how we can best make it work. And Chris Murphy (above) is right, we don't yet have enough MS students in the Grady cluster to justify a second MS, although we may in the future. Too bad APS wasn't willing to consider one or two K-8 configurations for now--that would help mitigate large grade and school concerns.
intownmomma October 10, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Ken, I would be happy to send my sons to Renfroe. 250/class sounds downright cozy compared to Inman. As Great Schools mentioned, it is the size of the class that matters. The MES example is just silly. I want to know how big my sons' cohorts will be. Anyone with school-age kids should understand. Decatur's 4/5 school (which I believe has been around for longer than you think) isn't really comparable. I know plenty of parents who don't like it, but at least it's a small school with small classes. I simply do not feel comfortable enrolling my kids at the new Inman. Most of our friends feel the same way and will either enroll in private school or move. I don't know anyone whose kids are my kids' age (meaning they will face extremely large middle school classes on two different campuses and have time to plan for other options) who is committed to using Inman. This is nothing short of a disaster for several neighborhoods and for Inman. We have good friends who live in Candler Park who enrolled their kids in private school after finishing Mary Lin last year. They were wary of the new Inman, too. The Marietta school has a city-wide magnet program, which is undoubtedly responsible for its positive performance. If you install a quality magnet program at Inman, you'll get a different response from me and from many other parents, I'm sure. A magnet program would at least give my kids continuity with a smaller cohort. I don't see that happening, though.
intownatlmom October 11, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Inman is ranked higher than Renfroe academically, but go ahead and go there. That sounds fine to me, that makes more room at Inman.
intownmomma October 11, 2012 at 01:17 AM
I'm not rankings-focused. Who is doing the ranking, anyway? And on what basis? Our kids are bright, and they benefit from having well-educated and involved parents. They'll do fine anywhere so long as they have sufficient opportunities for learning and growth. The social aspects of the new mega-middle school are what concern me most. Anyway, we'll see where Inman is ranked when the many families like us leave. Decatur schools are on an upward trajectory, and they have the tax revenue to build new schools when overcrowding warrants it. Inman is on a downward trajectory, and it is rapidly losing community support. I'm not hearing good things from neighbors who have kids there this year. We're not planning to move, BTW. We can afford private school. We just know a number of families (form Morningside, VaHi and Candler Park) who've already moved to Decatur or who plan to move there. Not everyone can afford private school.
vh3 October 11, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Ken- this annex/academy will never be a "shared solution" in any sense other than everyone currently zoned to Inman will be forced to endure it. You see it as a"win" because it keeps your kids zoned to Inman. We see it as a loss because it destroys most of the best parts of Inman - reasonable size, close knit community, safe neighborhood, and teachers who knew our kids as individuals. What you are seeing in these recent comments is only the very tip of the iceberg in terms of how disgusted many NOP families are with results of the rezoning mess and how angry they are. (This isnt the Big Tent where everyone always agrees with you.) Intownmomma and others are right- people are very unhappy with Inman already and many are making plans to leave, especially those with younger kids moving up towards middle school. You may have won the battle with your "shared solution" but time will tell if you've lost the war. And Davis won't always be around to protect you.
Ken Edelstein October 11, 2012 at 04:04 AM
@Great Schools The range is 339 (actual this year) to 476 (projected for 2021-22, and that was projected when the 2012-13 baseline was assumed to be 373). Continually referring to 6 straight years in the 300s as "450-500" is plainly incorrect. How old will your child(ren) be in 2021, by the way? My son, God willing, will just be entering 6th grade. I do agree with you, that @Chris Murphy makes a hard-to-avoid point: The numbers actually point to adding about one grade's capacity to the cluster's MS. I like K-8 and K-6 as well, but there also are legitimate logistical reasons for a school system to be wary of quickly proliferating and experimenting with multiple models at multiple schools requiring multiple facility changes all at once. With that reality in mind, why does APS' decision to add capacity in the form of a demonstrably successful model — while explicitly preparing for additional changes should they be needed in the out years — evoke such apocalyptic indignation?
Ken Edelstein October 11, 2012 at 04:33 AM
@intownmomma I'm not sure how 339 kids per grade can be a "megaschool" while 250 can be "downright cozy." My ciphering says 339 is much closer to 250 than to 600 ... and yet the school with 600 is doing quite well. I appreciate your wariness of overusing testing as a barometer of success. But I only use it as a reality check on the out-of-hand dismissal of a 6th grade model or of what I would term <i>moderately</i> large grade sizes. My point about Marietta 6th isn't that it's necessarily a superior model — it's that it's not automatically an inferior model that deserves to be rejected as viscerally as it has been in some quarters. When you get down to it, demographics aside, aren't parental involvement and great teaching more influential in a school's success than configuration and size? I'd also argue that, when it does come to scale, school size matters in some ways and grade size matters in other ways. Is Marietta 6th's magnet program partly responsible for its success? Great! You're making my point that Inman cluster parents will be doing their kids — all kids, really — a favor by working together NOW to ensure that APS and parents develop a school with the best opportunities for success.
Alex October 11, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Enough already. The Mary Lin community since the beginning of the redistricting process has been manipulative and self serving. They have no consideration for the greater good of neighbors in the local community. The very vocal leadership in Candler Park guises their position with long diatribes on the message boards but have consistently pushed thier self serving agenda behind closed doors. Some of those closed door meetings are with high level APS personel. At the end of the day its dishonest, selfish and is just plain wrong.
Great Schools October 11, 2012 at 06:28 PM
@Ken: ?? You are creating disagreement with me where it doesn't exist. I never suggested that Inman 6th grade would jump from 340 to 475 in one year. I said that it is projected to grow to 450-500; I think we agree on that, and it's a 10 year projection. Where did you find me "continually referring to 6 straight years...as 450-500"? I'm lost there--never suggested that. And "apocalyptic indignation" "fueled by so much anger"?? Where's that? You seem to be trying to pick a fight--hope I've misunderstood you. My whole point is to help you see another perspective--that giant GRADE and SCHOOL sizes have some real down sides for ALL students. Talk to parents of school age children and I think you will find few people who prefer very large grade and school sizes. Perhaps what you are really trying to say is that you would prefer to sacrifice with large GRADE sizes if that means you can avoid going to Coan or leaving Inman--a lesser evil of sorts. That's fair--I can understand that. And I hope your child has both a high performing middle school and one without mega grades. But please understand that mega grades/schools are not "wildly popular" for very good reasons. And APS's shift to megaschools is very new--up until recently they were only advocating for small schools (Build Smart Plan). Go figure. But all that aside, we have what we have--giant middle school. It's certainly not the ideal solution, but it's not the end of world either. Agree?

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