Teachers in the Washington and Douglass High School clusters want to know what will happen to their schools and funding as charters gain ground and redistrictring may send students elsewhere, according to comments made at a forum held by Atlanta Public Schools Board Member Byron Amos.
About ten teachers, active or retired, came to the Saturday morning meeting at , which Amos billed as a safe place for them to speak frankly about their employer. He guaranteed them anonymity if they wanted it.
Amos' District 2 will start the next school year with four charters, while some of the middle and elementary schools in the community have vacant seats.
"Charters get public dollars but voters don't elect the board," noted one teacher.
Amos said he supports charters, but also supports more reporting requierements and more APS say-so, rather than a single vote, usually every five years, on renewing a school's charter.
A resolution moving through the Georgia General Assembly would open the door for the state to certify charters, bypassing local boards of education. It would allow both state and local tax dollars to fund those charters, even if the local school board rejects it. The resolution failed a key House floor vote last week, but supporters are lobbying colleagues and can try another vote.
As APS works on new school district maps, two elementary and two middle schools in southwest Atlanta schools may close or merge with others.
"What is the fate of the [high] school if you're closing the schools that feed into it?" asked teacher Jason Allen, reading a colleague's question that he collected while live-tweeting the meeting. He added, "If you close the buildings, what are we going to do with the buildings?"
There's no answer on that yet. Some suggested one root of the problem of the vacancies and even stigma around some schools is "creative" redistricting that sends kids to schools that are further away - northward - but which parents would rather use.
Amos said he does not want to talk about schools closing, but about how to keep them open and make them attractive.
One teacher said he is frustrated with the "cliques and drama" that dominate news about the schools and breed at his own school. "You have to have a lot of discipline to remove yourself from that," he said.
Amos hopes more teachers will come to his next meeting. The date is yet to be scheduled, but he plans to have them quarterly. He suggested teachers are a bit nervous about speaking their minds and he attributed that to the atmosphere created by the previous superintendent. One teacher said flyers announcing the Saturday meeting were removed from a school.
Want to learn more about the APS redistricting debate? You can find a roundup on Cascade Patch, and stories about the debate in other Atlanta communities at the Patch Facebook page devoted to the issue.