Monday Night Live Blog: Parents, Teachers and Residents Share Concerns with Atlanta Public Schools
The moment-by-moment news from two meetings at Atlanta Public Schools headquarters Monday.
Patch is live blogging from the Atlanta Public Schools headquarters, 130 Trinity Avenue.
According to Keith Bromery, spokesman for the Atlanta Public Schools, the school system is hosting two meetings simultaneously this evening. We will report the first hour of the community input meeting and then move to the SACS meeting around 7:30 p.m.
Part I—APS Community Input Meeting:
6:00-6:10 p.m Dr. Marvin Edwards, an APS consultant, establishes the ground rules for the community input session.
6:11 p.m. First comment sets the tone for the next 2-3. It is from an APS graduate and former teacher.
"I think the problem with the Atlanta Public Schools is that when you are always trying to keep things in a capsule you are going to have more problems," said Glennis (sp?) Terrell, who added that she has taught in the Atlanta Public Schools and also is a graduate.
6:25 p.m. Kimberlin Butler, who has taught in the Atlanta Public Schools as part of Teach America program, has a two-part comment.
Butler asks Edwards and another consultant why the district is not publicizing the community input sessions on Facebook and other media, social and traditional.
"I'm really surprised this meeting isn't full," she said. In addition, Butler said "kids deserve a seat at the table in the form of a focus group."
6:30 p.m. Edwards asks the group (about 100 in room but more coming in) to limit comments now to "What you want from a superintendent."
6:35 p.m. Aston (sp?) Mitchell, a teacher in the district for 10 years said she wants to see three qualities in the new superintendent: "Hands on" approach to leadership, transparency and more involvement in the local schools.
6:45 p.m. Dana Price, a Mays High School area parent, who with her husband has one Mays graduate and four other children in APS, said the district needs to think about public relations and its image before recruiting a superintendent. "What are we going to do with our image to bring someone here?" Price said.
6:55 p.m. Amber Barry(sp?), a mother of three young girls, one now a student at Morris Brandon, said "I believe in public schools" and that she is a product of Montgomery County public schools. Barry says she worked in public relations for Ivan Allen and she mentions Mayor Ivan Allen labled Atlanta "The City Too Busy To Hate."
"I hope that the next person can take a page from the history books of Atlanta and unify Atlanta" the way Allen did duing the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
"We have a major PR problem," said Barry, to nods and "yes" comments from the crowd. Barry also said she would volunteer her time to help the district with public relations work.
Barry said she has neighbors who talk all the time about pulling their kids out of the district when they enter the 3rd grade. They talk about enrolling children in private schools, Barry said.
"I would like to see people not give up on the school system," Barry said. "Don't give up, get involved."
7 p.m. I don't want a superintendent that I deem as untouchable," said Jean Blackshear, a product of APS, a mother of APS graduates and a teacher in the system. "I want a superintendent that I can reach out and touch."
"We need someone who has a vested interest in all parts of the city and not just certain area,s" Blackshear said.
7:10 p.m. A man who identifies himself as principal of The South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice says the new superintendent "has got to be a transformational leader" and many in the audience applaud (for the first time this evening, though some have shown some vocal support of comments).
7:15 p.m. A woman who identifies herself as a first-generation college graduate says she wants the new superintendent to take a close look at the small schools model. The woman said "it breaks my heart" that students at her school don't have the chance to experience what she did when she was a high school.
"I was a member of at least 10 clubs in high school," said the woman, who added that she attended college and graduate school on full scholarships, in part because she had a well-rounded high school experience. "It hurts me that these kids don't get to do the things I got to do... I'm not saying (the small schools) are bad but I do think the new superintendent should give these schools another look." (Applause)
7:30 p.m. "One thing I want to say is the new superintendent has to embrace the unions," said a man who identifies himself as president of the Atlanta Association of Educators (editor's note: we talked to the man later and learned he was Patrick Crabtree, a teacher at Adamsville Elementary in Cascade Patch).
He also talks about discipline and bullying problems.
"A lot of the learning process cannot take place because there is no alternative program in the schools... there is no consequence for actions, children cannot be suspended."
7:32 p.m. Dr. Edwards says the meeting will conclude in a few minutes. He tells the group that they can move to the other room (the SACS meeting) after the meeting concludes.
7:37 p.m. Joel Dixon, a product of APS who makes clear he is not a parent, teacher or administrator, just a concerned resident, says he is really excited about the comments made by everyone at the meeting. Then he says he just wants to add an important point.
Dixon says he has heard people say they want a "transformational leader" but he says the community has to become more active in the schools to have that type of leader.
"I don't have a student in the system but I think it's extremely important to know that you get a transformation leader by being a transformation community."
7:40 p.m. A man named Ed Johnson gets the last comment, according to Dr. Edwards.
Johnson says the district needs a "learning leader," not one who tries to meet "targets."
"A learning leader will understand excessive test prep is not exactly the best way to provide an environment in which to learn," Johnson said.
"A learning leader will understand the psychology of teachers ... and will not exclusively rely on research that has been done in the past," Johnson said.
7:45-7:55 p.m. Patch is taking a 10 minute break and relocating to the SACS meeting.....
Part II—SACS meeting with APS School Board:
8:04 p.m. School board is meeting with SACS. Many of the people from the community meeting are coming into the room.
8:10 p.m. Board chairman Khaatim El presents an overview of the board's meeting tonight, with highlights of progress on the six objectives SACS has set for the board.
8:14 p.m. A woman is reading what appears to be minutes from the meeting that occurred between 6-8 p.m. while others were in community input meeting.
8:18 p.m. Sharron Pitts, Chief of Staff of Atlanta Public Schools, is talking about policy process.
8:35 p.m. Board member Brenda Muhammad has a comment.
"I hope we can get some clarity around this," Muhammad said. "One of the problems we had before was that we really didn't have clarity about the process... it's the big elephant in the room."
"I wanted to go ahead and put that out there," Muhammad said.
8:38 p.m. School board staff representatives tells Muhammad that the district can help keep the school board more clear about the process.
"Part of the challenge is I am one person," she said, so "everything can't happen at the same time."
8:40 p.m. Sharron Pitts has a comment.
Pitts says Muhammad had made a good point. She says that the board and staff need to, more or less, combine efforts in getting through the SACS process.
"We've done the technical work," Pitts says to Muhammad and the board, and now the district is ready for the school board to take the next step.
8:46 p.m. Board agrees that they need to look at adoption of the recommended process from ABE Review.
8:48 p.m. Motion to accept the recommendation for the policy process. Second.
8:49 p.m. Motion passes. No opposition.
8:54 p.m. Board member Courtney English says, "I think it would be important for the board to hear how what the public said" in the community input session. Staff member says they will follow up and talk to the consultants about the meeting and provide the information to the board.
8:56 p.m. The board is starting to wrap up the meeting. Each board member is now making a final comment.
8:57 p.m. Board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane has a comment.
Harsch-Kinnane said that she just wants the board to remember that the deadline is approaching and that "we need to be cognizant" of fact that community expects the board to get through the SACS process successfully.
8:59 p.m. Board member English makes a motion—and it is seconded—that the board extend its meeting, which is to end in one minute—until 9:05 p.m. All agree to motion.
9:02-9:08 p.m. Board is now talking about whether they have made the process that the community has expected the board to make. Several board members quickly share their views: LaChandra Butler Burks, Emmett Johnson, Harsch-Kinnane and Muhammad.
9:08 p.m. Board member Yolanda Johnson has last comment. She says she believes the board is making progress and that no board member should suggest the board is not making progress.
9:09 p.m. Meeting is adjourned.
Good night Patchers!