More than 100 advocates of children in the Atlanta Public Schools gathered Thursday evening at Cascade United Methodist Church to review an initial list of "demands" members of a parents' group plans to present to the city's school board.
Among the ideas proposed were a new "task force or oversight plan" to track the 58 APS schools accused of cheating on standardized tests, a superintendent search committee that represents "all communities in APS," and the enforcement of a May 1 deadline for school board members to satisfy the recommendation of a probation review board. (see .
The meeting, organized by Southwest & Northwest Parents & Partners for Schools (SNAPPS), also served as a makeshift platform for potential candidates for upcoming school board seats, organizers acknowledged Thursday.
"We have to be at the table of decision-making," SNAPPS president Shawnna Hayes-Taveres said shortly after the meeting. "We are planning on having a slate and we will endorse them."
Hayes-Taveres, a mother of students at , Inman Middle and schools, and other SNAPPS leaders have been monitoring APS school board meetings and meeting regularly to prepare for Thursday's meeting. Members of the group—and several attendees who spoke at the meeting—said they are concerned that parents from the westside are often more reactive, than proactive, when it comes to school leadership.
"We really need to get more involved," said Athon Barron, a southwest Atlanta resident whose grandchildren attend public schools. "In the Mount Paran area and some of these other communities they are in there (the schools), on a day-to-day basis, taking care of business."
Westside resident Helen Tolbert concurred.
“It’s our fault. It’s time for us to change,” Tolbert told the audience. “Stop blaming the board for everything. Start blaming yourselves. Blame everyone in this room.”
Tolbert and Barron were among the more than one dozen participants at the meeting who spoke to the gathering, which included school board members Yolanda Johnson, Courtney English and Brenda Muhammad as well as state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and state Sen. Horacena Tate, both Democrats.
While some agreed with their view, others said they felt poor leadership—not a lack of parental and community involvement–was the main problem facing the school system.
“Right now the school board, they are the ones who need to be accountable," Ann McKenzie said to the group. "We need to look at the school board.”
SNAPPS drafted Thursday night's plan to respond to three challenges facing the schools: 1) an upcoming search for a new superintendent, 2) allegations of cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) and 3) the board's Sept. 30 probation deadline to meet six directives and avoid loss of accreditation.
Though no official date was set to present the demands to the board, SNAPPS plans a series of meetings to focus on the three concerns.
The next SNAPPS meeting is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at Deerwood Academy, 3070 Fairburn Rd. A large community meeting on the superintendent search is tentatively March 28.
For information about SNAPPS meetings or to join the organization go to: http://snappsatl.org