Atlanta Public School District 4 Community Meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m.

August 25, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education Vice Chair Nancy Meister and At-Large Board Member Cynthia Briscoe-Brown will host a Community Meeting tonight at from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Sutton Middle School. Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen will be the guest speaker and will address issues related to District 4 schools.

Sutton Middle School
School Theater
2875 Northside Dr. NW
Atlanta, GA 30305

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Atlanta Public School/Beltline dispute – legal letters fly

August 21, 2014

The AJC reported yesterday that the Atlanta Public School’s outside counsel had sent a demand letter to the City of Atlanta and to Invest Atlanta requesting payment on monies due to APS from the Atlanta Beltline project. The City of Atlanta responded to the APS letter and ramped up the acrimonious dispute. The following are some extracts from each letter and the full text of the letters are at the end of the post.

As you read the excerpts, keep in mind the old adage -

“If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”

My sense is that the City of Atlanta attorney may have suffered some injuries to her fists. And also remember that since May when Mayor Reed took over as the lead negotiator for the City, he has yet to call a single meeting to discuss the matter with APS. The ball has been in his court and remains so today.

Extracts from letter sent from APS counsel on August 12, 214 to the City of Atlanta and to Invest Atlanta:

I write today because the City’s and Invest Atlanta’s actions to date have demonstrated your clients· intention to circumvent and manipulate both the letter and the spirit of the Agreement.  … your clients’ wrongful conduct in connection with the Agreement constitutes breaches not only of their express contractual duties and obligations to APS, but also of their duty of good faith and fair dealing under Georgia law.

… the City and Invest Atlanta have unilaterally decided to place BeltLine development expenses ahead of their contractually required annual payments to APS. This decision is in direct violation of Section 1 of the Agreement, which provides that “in all events.” the PILOTs shall be senior to any other redevelopment costs incurred by the City or ADA for the BeltLine TAD.”… This pattern of disregard for the terms of the Agreement has continued in 2014. Once again, your clients have failed to make this year’s scheduled PILOT, this time in the amount of $6.75 million, in a timely manner (or indeed at all, as of yet). …APS hereby demands that the City and Invest Atlanta immediately submit payment of (l) the unpaid interest attributable to the late payment of 2013’s PILOT, (2) the unpaid 2014 PILOT, and (3) interest on the 2014 PILOT, as provided for by the terms of Section 2 of the Agreement.  

Please let this demand also serve as a reminder that… your clients may not issue any new “tax allocation bonds, notes, or other obligations for which educational tax allocation increment is pledged with respect to the BeltLine TAD, unless all PILOT payments scheduled to have been paid on such date, together with the applicable interest accrued thereon shall have been fully paid to APS.”

…your clients’ refusal to pay APS the bargained-for amounts constitutes breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implicit in every contract governed by Georgia law…Your clients’ conduct to date, by contrast,  has demonstrated utter disregard for not only the letter of the Agreement, but also its very purpose.

While your clients have received the benefit of their bargain, in the form of tens of millions of dollars in revenue attributable to the positive tax increment, APS, as a result of your clients’ actions, most certainly has not. Although the City and Invest Atlanta have made the PILOTs to Fulton County and the TAD annual bond payments, they have ignored their promises to APS, despite the fact that the tax increment has yielded sufficient funds to honor all of these obligations. …Even if, counterfactually, the City and Invest Atlanta were unable to make full PILOTs to both Fulton County and APS, there is no justification for paying the former in full and the latter not at all. Your clients’ actions in this regard can only be seen as an effort to strong-arm APS into renegotiating the Agreement against its will.  

… it is not APS’s intention to hinder or disrupt the development of the BeltLine project.  Rather, APS desires merely to enforce the terms of the Agreement  – terms which the City and Invest Atlanta are demonstrably able to live up to but, out of a calculated intransigence, have chosen to disregard.

Extracts from response letter sent by City of Atlanta attorney on August 19, 2014:

…Candidly, we are disappointed in the manner, tone and content of your communication.

Your letter… fails to focus on the contents of the signed agreement. As such, your legal and factual assertions are erroneous and misleading. Most notably, the contract terms make clear that the City is not in material breach.

As a result, a court would not entertain contractual claims raised by Atlanta Public Schools (“APS”) because the claims cannot meet the basic legal threshold of being “ripe” for judicial consideration.

You overlook the City’s thwarted attempt to comply with its land donation obligation in December 2009…that donation did not occur because APS refused to close on the transaction.

You make no mention of the 2009 Georgia constitutional amendment which authorized use of TAD educational funds for redevelopment purposes. Once permitted by law, the City worked proactively to facilitate APS’ immediate receipt of the BeltLine TAD educational funds collected prior to the amendment’s passage, totaling approximately $26 million.

You also ignore APS’ four-year failure to provide the City with its Quality Basic Education calculation and supporting documentation for payments to be paid by the City. The calculation and supporting documentation are material contractual obligations of APS.

Despite these facts, you falsely portray the City as intending “to circumvent and manipulate” the spirit of its agreement with APS.

The agreement dates back to 2005, prior to the collapse of the real estate market, and includes terms that are not viable in today’s economy. The City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine have attempted to work with APS on necessary amendments to no avail since 2009.

Your letter’s characterization of our commitment to Atlanta’s youth is contradicted by numerous publicized examples. The educational portion of the BeltLine TAD funds, which is the focus of your letter, helps finance a public amenity that provides children with a safe place to play, offers free recreational and cultural programming throughout Atlanta’s neighborhoods, encourages healthy living, benefits the environment and fosters a sense of community.

Atlanta demonstrated its commitment when it dedicated resources to opening every one of its recreation centers at a time when municipal budgets across the nation were under severe strain from the Great Recession….The City also partnered with the Everybody Wins! third grade reading initiative, which encouraged reading and literacy at four local elementary schools….To further enhance the education and safety of students, the City offered a free fiber optic network and police services in APS schools.

Further, Mayor Reed has personally committed to the success of APS. He and his administration took leadership roles in the recruitment of two best-in-class superintendents, Erroll Davis and Meria Carstarphen. At the request of APS, Mayor Reed raised funds to enable APS to recruit top talent for the superintendent position and to support a successful APS leadership transition.

It is with this backdrop that you characterize the City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine as lacking “good faith and fair dealing” in its conduct with APS. Nothing is further from the truth.

Your combative approach encourages expensive and time-consuming litigation, which diverts APS money, employee time and energy from pressing educational needs. As the new superintendent begins her transition, she faces daunting challenges that will require laser focus to address.

Students would benefit from renewed concentration on a more effective use of a budget that exceeds $600 million, funded in part by 49 cents of every property tax dollar within the City. Despite boasting the highest per pupil spending rate in the metropolitan area, APS only produces a 59 percent graduation rate. APS is attempting to resolve the worst school cheating scandal in the history of Georgia and perhaps the United States. The APS pension has been critically underfunded for decades and currently cannot cover 82 percent of its obligation to its pension participants. It will take many years of hard work and proven success for APS to gain the public’s trust and erase the stigma of institutionalized deception.

Threatening our clients with litigation does nothing to advance these goals. Please note though that the City always stands ready and willing to litigate.

The City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine are prepared to discuss what is owed and when it is owed according to the contract, but only in an environment that is conducive to productive deliberation and resolution….We support our clients’ current plan to meet with APS and work toward resolution….

We believe that the City, its residents and its children deserve better than the threats set forth in your Letter.

Full Text of Letter sent by APS outside counsel to the City of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta:

Cathy D. Hampton. Esq. – City Attorney City of Atlanta

Rosalind Rubens Newell, Esq. General Counsel – Invest Atlanta

Re:      Payments Owed lo Atlanta Independent School System Under the Intergovernmental Agreement Concerning the Beltline TAD

Dear Ms. Hampton and Ms.Newell:

This law firm has been retained to represent the Atlanta Independent School System (hereinafter referred to as “Atlanta Public Schools” or APS”) in connection with the above­ referenced matter. As you are no doubt aware, APS is a party to that certain Intergovernmental Agreement By and Between the City of Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta Development Authority (now Invest Atlanta), and the Atlanta Independent School System, initially entered into December 31, 2005, and amended on August 17, 2009, and November 9, 2009 (collectively, the “Agreement”). Please consider this letter as a formal demand by APS for any and all amounts owed to it by the City of Atlanta (the “City”) and/or Invest Atlanta pursuant to the Agreement.

As you know, the Agreement concerns, among other things, the City’s use, for BeltLine development purposes, of a portion of the positive tax allocation increments generated within the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (the “District” or “TAD”) derived from the educational ad valorem property tax millage rate established by the Atlanta Board of Education and levied by the City. In exchange for agreeing to such an arrangement, APS negotiated to receive a sum of $162,436,302, payable over twenty years (beginning in 2011 and ending in 2030) from tax allocation increments collected within the District. as a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (the ..PILOT”). Under the terms of the Agreement, the PILOTs are due to APS on January I of each year, with the first payment scheduled for January 1, 2013.

I write today because the City’s and Invest Atlanta’s actions to date have demonstrated your clients· intention to circumvent and manipulate both the letter and the spirit of the Agreement.  Indeed, as discussed in detail below, your clients’ wrongful conduct in connection with the Agreement constitutes breaches not only of their express contractual duties and obligations to APS, but also of their duty of good faith and fair dealing under Georgia law.

First, as evidenced by your clients’ own financial statements, the City and Invest Atlanta have unilaterally decided to place BeltLine development expenses ahead of their contractually required annual payments to APS. This decision is in direct violation of Section 1 of the Agreement, which provides that “in all events.” the PILOTs ·shall be senior to any other redevelopment costs incurred by the City or ADA for the BeltLine TAD.” Or to state this provision another way, after making the annual bond payments, the City and Invest Atlanta are obligated to make the PILOTs to APS and Fulton County before paying for any redevelopment costs. regardless of the amount of the increment.  Instead of honoring this provision, your clients made the Year 3 PILOT over eleven months late and lacking $117,534.25 in contractually mandated interest.  This pattern of disregard for the terms of the Agreement has continued in 2014. Once again, your clients have failed to make this year’s scheduled PILOT, this time in the amount of $6.75 million, in a timely manner (or indeed at all, as of yet).  Accordingly , APS hereby demands that the City and Invest Atlanta immediately submit payment of (l) the unpaid interest attributable to the late payment of 2013’s PILOT, (2) the unpaid 2014 PILOT, and (3) interest on the 2014 PILOT, as provided for by the terms of Section 2 of the Agreement.  Please let this demand also serve as a reminder that, pursuant to Section 2 of the Agreement, your clients may not issue any new “tax allocation bonds. notes, or other obligations for which educational tax allocation increment is pledged with respect to the BeltLine TAD, unless all PILOT payments scheduled to have been paid on such date, together with the applicable interest accrued thereon shall have been fully paid to APS.”

In addition to their breach of the Agreement’s explicit terms, your clients’ refusal to pay APS the bargained-for amounts constitutes breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implicit in every contract governed by Georgia law. See, e.g., Brack v. Brownlee , 246 Ga. 818, 820 ( 1980). At its core, the duty of good faith requires substantial compliance with the spirit of a contract.  Bowman v. Walnut Mountain Property Owners Ass’n. Inc., 251 Ga. App. 91, 95 (2001) (“Good faith is a shorthand way of saying substantial compliance with the spirit, and not merely the letter, of a contract.”); see also 0.C.G.A. § 13-4-20 (mandating that performance “must be substantially in compliance with the spirit and the letter of the contract”).  Your clients’ conduct to date, by contrast. has demonstrated utter disregard for not only the letter of the Agreement, but also its very purpose.

There can be no serious doubt that, at bottom, the parties’ intention in entering the Agreement was to provide a mechanism by which APS could contribute to the development of the Belt Line without assuming an unreasonable amount of risk.  While your clients have received the benefit of their bargain, in the form of tens of millions of dollars in revenue attributable to the positive tax increment. APS, as a result of your clients’ actions, most certainly has not. Although the City and Invest Atlanta have made the PILOTs to Fulton County and the TAD annual bond payments, they have ignored their promises to APS, despite the fact that the tax increment has yielded sufficient funds to honor all of these obligations.  While your clients’ inequitable treatment of the Fulton County and APS PILOTs likely constitutes an independent breach of the Agreement. it is also, at a minimum, evidence of their breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. See Capital Health MKml. Group. inc. v. Hartley, 301 Ga. App. 812, 817 (2009) (holding that a decision is not made in good faith ”if it was made for arbitrary or capricious reasons [or] was based on an improper pecuniary motive”).  Even if, counterfactually, the City and Invest Atlanta were unable to make full PILOTs to both Fulton County and APS, there is no justification for paying the former in full and the latter not at all. Your clients’ actions in this regard can only be seen as an effort to strong-arm APS into renegotiating the Agreement against its will.  See also, e.g .Katie Leslie, Dispute with APS Threatens Beltline, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 6, 2014, at l A. This is improper.

APS has an obligation to provide a quality world-class public education to Atlanta’s children.  This mission is essential to the future of our community and our city. Thus, in making this demand for payment, it is not APS’s intention to hinder or disrupt the development of the BeltLine project.  Rather, APS desires merely to enforce the terms of the Agreement – terms which the City and Invest Atlanta are demonstrably able to live up to but, out of a calculated intransigence, have chosen to disregard. In order to rectify this situation and spare all parties the trouble and expense of what would inevitably be a protracted legal action, please confirm that your clients will be remitting payment to APS of the amounts described above.

Thank you for your immediate attention to these urgent matters and please direct any and all future  inquiries and communications  concerning  the Agreement to my attention only.

Sincerely,

Daniel S. Reinhardt

cc: Atlanta Board of Education

Erroll 13. Davis

Full Text of Letter sent by City of Atlanta to APS:

Dear Mr.Reinhardt,

The City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine received your letter dated August 12, 2014 regarding the BeltLine Tax Allocation District (“BeltLine TAD”) agreement. Candidly, we are disappointed in the manner, tone and content of your communication.

Your letter references multiple cases and even our local newspaper, but it fails to focus on the contents of the signed agreement. As such, your legal and factual assertions are erroneous and misleading. Most notably, the contract terms make clear that the City is not in material breach. As a result, a court would not entertain contractual claims raised by Atlanta Public Schools (“APS”) because the claims cannot meet the basic legal threshold of being “ripe” for judicial consideration. You overlook the City’s thwarted attempt to comply with its land donation obligation in December 2009 pursuant to Atlanta Ordinance 09-0-2055; that donation did not occur because APS refused to close on the transaction. You make no mention of the 2009 Georgia constitutional amendment which authorized use of TAD educational funds for redevelopment purposes. Once permitted by law, the City worked proactively to facilitate APS’ immediate receipt of the BeltLine TAD educational funds collected prior to the amendment’s passage, totaling approximately $26 million. You also ignore APS’ four-year failure to provide the City with its Quality Basic Education calculation and supporting documentation for payments to be paid by the City. The calculation and supporting documentation are material contractual obligations of APS. Despite these facts, you falsely portray the City as intending “to circumvent and manipulate” the spirit of its agreement with APS.

Imperative to full disclosure of information is the timing of the BeltLine TAD contract negotiations. The agreement dates back to 2005, prior to the collapse of the real estate market, and includes terms that are not viable in today’s economy. The City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine have attempted to work with APS on necessary amendments to no avail since 2009. While this context may have little import in a contract between parties in the private sector, it is essential to a financial matter between governmental partners where the outcome directly affects the public. The City, APS, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine are all fiscally committed to enhancing the quality and availability of public school and extramural educational opportunities for Atlanta’s children.

Your letter’s characterization of our commitment to Atlanta’s youth is contradicted by numerous publicized examples. The educational portion of the BeltLine TAD funds, which is the focus of your letter, helps finance a public amenity that provides children with  a safe place to play, offers free recreational and cultural programming throughout Atlanta’s neighborhoods, encourages healthy living, benefits the environment and fosters a sense of community. The Atlanta BeltLine project has already spurred one billion dollars in private development. It also attracts scores of new residents sending their children to APS schools in areas such as Adair Park, Capitol View, Westview and other Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods. This new lifeblood provides APS with more robust communities with increased family and community engagement.

Atlanta demonstrated its commitment when it dedicated resources to opening every one of its recreation centers at a time when municipal budgets across the nation were under severe strain from the Great Recession. Mayor Reed and the Atlanta City Council established ten Centers of Hope which provide after-school programming and tutoring to underserved APS students across the City. The City also partnered with the Everybody Wins! third grade reading initiative, which encouraged reading and literacy at four local elementary schools. The City bolstered the initiative by encouraging all 8,000 City of Atlanta employees to participate in the program by reading to a child once a week. To further enhance the education and safety of students, the City offered a free fiber optic network and police services in APS schools.

Further, Mayor Reed has personally committed to the success of APS. He and his administration took leadership roles in the recruitment of two best-in-class superintendents, Erroll Davis and Meria Carstarphen. At the request of APS, Mayor Reed raised funds to enable APS to recruit top talent for the superintendent posit ion and to support a successful APS leadership transition. His efforts resulted in cumulative donations exceeding $200,000 from several of Atlanta’s corporate stakeholders, including Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company, SunTrust Bank and Bank of America.

It is with this backdrop that you characterize the City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine as lacking “good faith and fair dealing” in its conduct with APS. Nothing is further from the truth. Your combative approach encourages expensive and time-consuming litigation, which diverts APS money, employee time and energy from pressing educational  needs. As the new superintendent begins her transition, she faces daunting challenges that will require laser focus to address. Students would benefit from renewed concentration on a more effective use of a budget that exceeds $600 million, funded in part by 49 cents of every property tax dollar within the City. Despite boasting the highest per pupil spending rate in the metropolitan area, APS only produces a 59 percent graduation rate. APS is attempting to resolve the worst school cheating scandal in the history of Georgia and perhaps the United States. The APS pension has been critically underfunded for decades and currently cannot cover 82 percent of its obligation to its pension participants. It will take many years of hard work and proven success for APS to gain the public’s trust and erase the stigma of institutionalized deception. Threatening our clients with litigation does nothing to advance these goals. Please note though that the City always stands ready and willing to litigate.

Lastly, your decision to issue a threatening demand letter without so much as a courtesy call to Ms. Newell, Ms. Perkins-Hooker or me is unfortunate, especially on matters as consequential to the public as the Atlanta Public Schools and the Atlanta BeltLine. While we appreciate zealous advocacy as much as anyone, we expect the same professional courtesy due any fellow attorney, Jet alone the chief legal officer of the largest city in Georgia, of Atlanta’s redevelopment authority and of its agent Atlanta BeltLine. This omission is particularly noteworthy given your courtesy call to a member of the Atlanta BeltLine Board of Directors. It is our hope that we and our respect ive clients can work toward resolution of our dispute in a product ive and professional manner.

The City, Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine are prepared to discuss what is owed and when it is owed according to the contract, but only in an environment that is conducive to productive deliberation and resolution. Ms. Newell, Ms. Perkins-Hooker and I request that any further written correspondence or other communication from you be solely for scheduling purposes. We support our clients’ current plan to meet with APS and work toward resolution. Open and robust dialogue among these public officials is critical as they wield the public charge and authority to resolve this matter. We believe that the City, its residents and its children deserve better than the threats set forth in your Letter.

Sincerely,

Cathy Hampton

City Attorney

cc:     Mayor Kasim Reed; Candace L. Byrd, Chief of Staff; Rosalind Rubens Newell, General Counsel, Invest Atlanta; Patrise Perkins-Hooker, General Counsel, Atlanta BeltLine; Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell; Atlanta City Councilmembers

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Atlanta Public Schools and City of Atlanta trade heated letters over the Beltline dispute

August 20, 2014

The AJC reports today that the Atlanta Public Schools and the City of Atlanta have sent letters that may appear to further inflame an already heated dispute over the $19 million owed by the Atlanta Beltline project to APS. In the article (see here), Katie Leslie with the AJC reports:

 …letters sent between APS and city attorneys, obtained through an open records request, reveal those talks have worsened and may be heading to litigation — a move that could hinder the city’s efforts to build out the green space project.

 A law firm hired by APS sent a scathing letter to Reed’s administration last week accusing city leaders of a breach of contract over the Beltline agreement.[APS outside counsel] demanded the city and Invest Atlanta… submit millions in late payments to avoid the “trouble and expense” of a “protracted legal action.”

City Attorney Cathy Hampton countered this week with accusations APS is falsely portraying the Reed administration as uncooperative and said the school system has ignored its own role in the financial fiasco. Describing the missive as “threatening,” Hampton said while the administration would prefer to “work toward resolution,” it “always stands ready and willing to litigate.”

To see more background on the dispute, see posts on the topic here, here and here.

As I have noted in those posts, since Mayor Reed took over as the lead negotiator for the City, all he needed to do was call a meeting to resolve the matter. As recently as last month, APS officials confirmed that Reed had never attempted to convene a negotiating session.

My sense is that the APS Board has now reached a level of frustration with Reed’s lack of responsiveness and unwillingness to even meet to discuss the issue and the letter sent to the City is simply an attempt to try to move the process forward.

Mayor Reed – why will you not set a time and date to discuss the issue? Fighting it out in the headlines will get us nowhere.

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APS Board of Education drafts Mission and Vision for APS

August 19, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education Board Development Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Meister, met yesterday and drafted a preliminary Mission and Vision for the APS district. The discussion on both items was extensive and very thorough as each statement will drive numerous decisions in the future. Each statement is still in draft form and subject to further editing and, as of yesterday, the following statements were selected:

 Mission

The mission statement is a short and succinct statement of the districts primary job. The prior mission statement was:

The mission of Atlanta Public Schools is to educate all students through academic excellence, preparing them for success in life, service and leadership.

This statement was revised and the new draft mission statement is:

Through a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will be ready for college and career.

The discussion on the revision was extensive and Board members and the Superintendent wanted a statement that was fully inclusive of all students and represented a clear direction that would guide the employees of the district on a daily basis. The focus of the statement is a combination of caring for students while getting them ready for the next stage in their lives. Another key component of the new mission statement is that it is measurable and is focused on the time that students are in the care of the district. This is in contrast to the prior statement as “success in life, service and leadership” could not be easily measured at the time students completed their educations in the district.

Vision

 The vision is simply a statement of what the district is trying to achieve. The prior vision statement was:

The vision of Atlanta Public Schools is to be a student-centered, high-performing urban school district where all students become successful life-long learners and leaders.

The vision statement was also revised to the following:

A high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators work to inspire, parents are engaged and the community has trust in the district.

Again, the discussion on the revisions was extensive. Board members immediately dropped the word “urban” as the term placed the district in a category that might place limits on performance. Additionally, the vision now includes all the critical constituencies – student, educators, parents and the community.

The Board was extremely thoughtful in their deliberations and clearly wanted to develop clear and strong statements of purpose and outcomes. I think they were very successful in doing just that. Expect to hear both of these communicated to the public on a very regular basis and then be used as justification for making tough decisions as the Board and the Superintendent move forward with transforming the Atlanta Public Schools.

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Atlanta Public School Board of Education holds Board Development Committee meeting today [Update]

August 18, 2014

UPDATE – the posted address for the meeting site was incorrect in the notice – the correct street address is 241 Ralph McGill Blvd., NE.

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education Board Development Committee, which is chaired by Nancy Meister, will meet today from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The agenda for the meeting is as follows:

  • Board/Superintendent Roles
  • Board Norms
  • Mission, Vision, and Core Values
  • Superintendent – Initial Academic and Operating Goals and Priorities for Budget Parameters

The meeting will be hosted by the Georgia Power Corporation and will be held at the James K. Davis Conference Center, Conference Room 1, 760 241 Ralph McGill Blvd., NE Atlanta, Georgia 30308 and will be facilitated by Dr. Cathy Mincberg from the Center for the Reform of School Systems.

The first two items on the agenda have been previously discussed and are likely to move towards as final agreement. The Board Norms policy – which was read for the first time at the last BOE meeting can be seen here.

The most interesting part of the meeting is the presentation by the Superintendent of the initial academic and operating goals and priorities for budget parameters. These goals and objectives should establish the baseline for many decisions that will be made in the future. It will be interesting to see if the goals and objectives are for just this year or for multiple years as part of forming a longer term operating plan.

It is likely that I will be in and out of the meeting throughout the day and will update this post as new or interesting information comes to light.

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Recap of Atlanta Public School Board Education meeting on August 12th

August 12, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education held its regularly scheduled monthly meeting yesterday and the live blog at Talk Up APS can be found here with the live stream video of the proceedings is here. For more detail on the agenda see yesterday’s post here.

There were three presentations during the Work Session as follows:

Board Meeting Processes & Structure – Board Chair English reviewed the changes to the structure and conduct of the meeting. As noted previously, the Consent Agenda will presented as one item for a vote and Board members are expected to have asked all their questions in advance of publishing the Consent Agenda by 5 p.m. on the business day before the Board meeting.

Board members can still pull an item of the Consent Agenda for further discussion and can ask questions on any item during the meeting, but the plan is to keep these to a minimum. In addition, while each item on the Consent Agenda will not be read separately, a listing of all items will be posted on-screen prior to the vote.

The practical implication of the change is that, once the Consent Agenda is published on the prior Friday, it has essentially been approved by all Board members and it will pass unless new information comes to light prior to the Board meeting.  I think it is also important to note that going forward we must presume that all questions or concerns that the Board may have raised prior to publishing the Consent Agenda have been adequately addressed by the Administration. This presumption also includes that Board members are fully familiar with the purpose of the contracts they are approving and the contract financial implications both for the current and for future years.

Flexibility Options Update – Angela Smith, Special Assistant to the Superintendent presented an update on the plan to select an operational structure for the district – see presentation here. Since the last meeting, the Task Force/Advisory Committee has been selected and meetings have been scheduled. The following are the Task Force/Advisory Committee members by category:

  • Principals – Maureen Wheeler (Hope-Hill ES); Stephanie Johnson (Jackson HS); Tony Burks (Douglass HS); Betsy Bockman (Inman Middle); Peter Settlemeyer (Westside Charter); Jermaine Dawson (Harper Archer MS); and Cheryl Twyman (Fickett ES)
  • Teachers of the Year – Rita Simmons (Cleveland ES); Nathaniel Snyder (KIPP Ways Academy); and Danielle Gilley Costarides (North Atlanta HS)
  • Central Office Members – Chuck Burbridge (Finance); Elwood Duckworth (Operations); Pam Hall (Human Resources); Linda Anderson (Curriculum); Tammy Workman (Student Support); Greg Middleton (Assoc. Supt of Schools); Rebecca Kaye (Policy); Allen Mueller (Charter Schools); Raynise Smith (Learning); and Rubye Sullivan (Accountability)
  • Board Appointed Community Members – Josh Noblitt (District 1); Maria E. Armstrong (District 2); Clare Richie (District3); Rocky Rief (District 4); Peggy Ross (District5); Erica Morris Long (District 6); and Caterina DeCosta McAfee (At-Large)
  • Neighborhood Group Selected Community Members – Janet Kinard (Neighborhood Group) and David Payne (Neighborhood Group)
  • Parent Teacher Association President – Melissa Hodge Penn (PTA)

The Task Force will hold its first meeting on August 14th from 6-8:30 p.m. and will consider group norms and expectation development; discussion of group goals and outcomes; overview of Operating Models; APS Data Overview and pre-reading and small group discussion. Subsequent meetings will be held on August 21st, August 28th, September 4th, September 11th and September 18th. The agenda items for each meeting can be found in the presentation materials on page 7 (see here).

The plan is to hold seven public meetings at the end of August and early September, to then reach a preliminary conclusion by October 6 and then to have the Board finalize the decision on November 3rd.

Day One APS – Superintendent Carstarphen reviewed the activities leading up to and including Day One – see the presentation here.  In addition to others shown in the presentation, some of the key accomplishments are:

  • 1,647 or a 4% increase in students attending school on Day One over last year – Carstarphen noted that there was no solid prior year data and it had to be reconstructed. As such, the FY15 increase is an estimate.
  • Only 10 open teacher positions out of 3,200.
  • All students who were registered prior to Day One had schedules.
  • Much improved bus route performance, but still much work to do to improve the transportation system.

Carstarphen noted that the first day went very smoothly, but as the week progressed the district encountered some problems including issues with the availability of textbooks, transportation problems,  non-functioning HVAC systems and several crisis management issues. She indicated that each of these areas would require a longer term strategy to fully correct and that the administration was already considering ways to do so. Additionally, Carstarphen noted that her visits to classrooms during the week indicated that, as the week progressed, it was clear that many teachers were not holding to the established APS instructional framework and that by day 5, some teachers were already behind schedule.

During the Work Session Meister noted that in her experience with APS both as a parent and a Board member, this year’s Day One was by far the most organized and effective she had seen and extended her thanks and congratulations to the APS administration for their efforts. The community members present at the meeting seemed to agree and applauded the remarks made by Meister.

Carstarphen then introduced the 22 new principals in the district. The introductions start at 16:10 on the live stream video (see here).

The Superintendent also recognized John D. Moore who recently, at the age of 82, became the oldest recipient of a GED in the APS adult education program.

When the Consent Agenda was brought to the floor during the Work Session, Board member Amos requested that the Personnel Gains & Losses Report be pulled and that further discussion be held on an item in Executive Session. During the Work Session and the Legislative Session there were no other questions or comments on the items listed on the Consent Agenda and it passed 9-0. For a full list of the Consent Agenda items passed and a brief explanation of each item, see here.

The following items are on the agenda for discussion and action:

  • Authorization to Revise Policy BC Board MeetingsThe only substantive change from the prior policy is to state the period of time that Board members must receive the Agenda and supporting information in advance of the Board meeting. Board member Westmoreland asked if the Agenda and supporting items could be published earlier. Carstarphen indicated that the administration was working on improving the quality control process to ensure that the published Agenda was complete and accurate and would not require any changes subsequent to it being published. As such, until the control process improved, the administration needed the time until the close of business on Friday to publish the Agenda. The policy change passed 9-0.
  • Authorization to Revise Policy BBBA Board Statement of Values (First Reading)this is pretty straight forward and Chair English indicated it would be further discussed at the upcoming Board retreat. The policy was adopted on 9-0 vote.
  • Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishments – The following are the interesting items in the Report:
    • New Assistant Principals and Academy Leaders:
      • Stephen Black – North Atlanta High School – Asst. Principal
      • Freddie Lawrence, IV – Bethune Elementary – Asst. Principal
      • Danny Smith – Brown Middle School – Asst. Principal
      • Michael Taylor – Bunche Middle School – Asst. Principal
      • Felicial Lester – Douglas High School – Academy Leader
      • Lori Paulk-Revere – Best Academy Middle School – Dean of Academics
      • Yamilsa Roebuck – Best Academy High – Academy Leader
      • Byron White – Best Academy High – Academy Leader
    • Promotions – Nicole Spillar to Director of Student Support Services

As noted above, the Personnel Report was pulled from the Consent Agenda for discussion during the Executive Session. The Board voted on this item separately and it passed on a 9-0 vote.

  • In the matter of Douglas Rozier – One legal item came out of the Executive Meeting and the Board voted 9-0 to accept the Hearing Tribunal’s recommendation.

There was one additional legal item on the agenda – the Authorization to Settle Student v. AISS/ OSAH. Per the recommendation statement, “in June 2014, Student filed a due process complaint with the Office of State Administrative Hearings alleging that APS failed to provide Student with a free and appropriate public education.” The recommendation was to, “without conceding any of the claims raised by the Plaintiffs, the parties have agreed to settle the complaint and resolve the issues present in the requested administrative proceeding, as doing so is in the best interest of the parties.” However, the item was never mentioned during the meeting or taken under consideration by the Board in open session.

The Board then adjourned at 7:48 p.m.

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Atlanta Public School Board Education meeting today at 2 p.m. – some comments and questions on the agenda

August 11, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting today at 2 p.m. The following is a brief review of the published agenda for the Work Session and Legislative Session.

There are three presentations scheduled for the Work Session as follows:

  • Board Meeting Processes & Structure – Courtney D. English, Board Chair – this presentation will be on the revisions to the conduct of the Board meeting to make them more efficient and will likely include a discussion on how the consent agenda will be handled, on how the public comment session will be conducted and on timing of publishing the agenda and related attachments in advance of the meeting. More on this in a subsequent post.
  • Flexibility Options Update – Angela Smith, Special Assistant to the Superintendent (10 Minutes) – see presentation here. The presentation includes a calendar for developing a recommendation and a listing of members of the Task Force/Advisory Committee.
  • Day One APS – Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, Superintendent – see presentation here. Some of the key accomplishments are:
    • 1,647 or a 4% increase in students attending school on Day One over last year.
    • Only 10 open teacher positions out of 3,200.
    • All students who were registered prior to Day One had schedules.
    • 50 newly hired SST/RTI Intervention Specialists, 111 Counselors, 29 Social workers, and 49 Special Education Lead Teachers.
    • Much improved bus route performance.

The following items are on the agenda for discussion and action:

In consultation with the superintendent, we will set high expectations for outcomes for our students, and we will empower the superintendent to accomplish our mutual goals by supporting his/her decisions regarding personnel and other administrative actions.  

What is interesting about this is that over the course of the last six months, I have yet to hear what the “high expectations for outcomes for our students” are. Those expectations were not set during the budget discussion and I have yet to hear of any specifics from the new administration on this either. Now that this is enshrined in policy, should we expect to hear what the objectives of the new administration are?   

 The following are the items scheduled for the Consent Agenda: 

  • Report No. 14/15-1702 Approval Annual Planning Calendar – the Board is beginning to develop an annual calendar for its deliberations.
  • Report No. 14/15-1703 Authorization to Revise Policy BBBC Board Member Development Opportunities (Final Approval) – The dollar amount per Board member of $4,000 has been eliminated and instead the amount will be established as part of the annual budget. I will make a note of that and see if the Budget Commission follows up with this next budget season.
  • Report No. 14/15-1704 Authorization to Revise Policy EEE School Nutrition and Wellness Programs (First Reading) – this policy says – in essence – we will feed our kids in a manner that is compliant with federal standards and is likely required to keep receiving federal dollars for the school meal programs. It also limits the use of vending machines during the day.
  • Report No. 14/15-5101 Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishments – The following are the interesting items in the Report:
    • New Assistant Principals and Academy Leaders:
      • Stephen Black – North Atlanta High School – Asst. Principal
      • Freddie Lawrence, IV – Bethune Elementary – Asst. Principal
      • Danny Smith – Brown Middle School – Asst. Principal
      • Michael Taylor – Bunche Middle School – Asst. Principal
      • Felicial Lester – Douglas High School – Academy Leader
      • Lori Paulk-Revere – Best Academy Middle School – Dean of Academics
      • Yamilsa Roebuck – Best Academy High – Academy Leader
      • Byron White – Best Academy High – Academy Leader
    • Promotions – Nicole Spillar to Director of Student Support Services
  • Report No. 14/15-5102 Workers’ Compensation Settlement – $90,000 – the district self-insures for these types of claims and the settlement appears reasonable.
  • Report No. 14/15-1115 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract for Casework Design and Installation Service – $2.5 million – execute a contract with Mark Products of Georgia to provide casework design and installation service.
  • Report No. 14/15-1116 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract for Fencing Supplies – $1.1 million – a contract with Capricorn Construction Company to provide portable classroom transport, setup and installation service. $200 thousand – a contract with Allied Fence Company to provide fencing supplies.
  • Report No. 14/15-1117 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract for Portable Classroom Transport, Setup and Installation Service – $1.1 million – a contract with Capricorn Construction Company to provide portable classroom transport, setup and installation service.
  • Report No. 14/15-1118 Authorization to Enter into and Execute Contracts for Charter Bus Services – $200,000 thousand – contracts with Daniels Charter Service, Kelly Tours, Kingsmen Coach Lines, MLB Tours, Inc., and Southeastern Stages, Inc. to provide charter bus services.
  • Report No. 14/15-1119 Authorization to Purchase Janitorial Supplies and Equipment from the Cooperative Purchasing Network (TCPN) Contracts – $700,000 – The Cooperative Purchasing Network (TCPN) has established contracts R5118, R5119 and R5120 with Buckeye Cleaning Center-Houston, Ecolab, Inc. and Office Depot.
  • Report No. 14/15-1120 Authorization to Enter into and Execute Contracts for Social Work Services -$145 thousand – contracts with Becki Burney-Mitchell, Rachel Johnson and Social Work PRN to provide social work services.
  • Report No. 14/15-1121 Authorization to Accept the 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant for FY’15 – $1,120,511 in grants – the superintendent be authorized to accept the Georgia Title IV, Part B, 21st CCLC grant awards for FY’15.
  • Report No. 14/15-1122 Authorization to Amend Report No. 10/11-1203 to Provide Occupational and Physical Therapy Services – increase the previously approved contracts from $750,000 to $900,000 – contracts with Career Staff Unlimited, Comprehensive Therapy Consultants, Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services, Progressus Therapy, Staffing Options and Solutions and Supplemental Healthcare in June 2011
  • Report No. 14/15-1123 Authorization to Amend Report No. 10/11-1152 to Provide Sign Language Services – increase the previously approved contracts from $823,650 to $950,000 – contracts with Georgia Interpreting Services Network, Interpreters Unlimited and Sign Language Interpreting Specialist, Inc.
  • Report No. 14/15-1124 Authorization to Enter into and Execute Contracts to Provide Tutorial Services for the Flexible Learning Program – $800,000 – contracts with I Can Achieve, Inc., The Math Doctor, LLC and Vision Tutoring Education Foundation, Inc. to provide tutorial services for the flexible learning program.
  • Report No. 14/15-4302 Authorization to Negotiate and Enter into a Lease Agreement with WonderRoot for the Former Hubert Elementary School Property
  • Report No. 14/15-4303 Authorization to Negotiate and Enter into a Lease Agreement with Integral New Schools Atlanta, Inc. d/b/a Centennial Place Academy at the Centennial Place Elementary School Property

A number of items are scheduled for an Executive Session including the following:

  • 8.02 5.01 Report No. 14/15-0100 In re Douglas Rozier – the Board will consider the Hearing Tribunal’s recommendation in the matter of Douglas Rozier.
  • 8.03 Report No. 14/15-0101 Authorization to Settle Student v. AISS/ OSAH DOCKET NO. OSAH-GDOE-SE-1457769-60-SCHROER – In June 2014, Student filed a due process complaint with the Office of State Administrative Hearings alleging that APS failed to provide Student with a free and appropriate public education.  Without conceding any of the claims raised by the Plaintiffs, the parties have agreed to settle the complaint and resolve the issues present in the requested administrative proceeding, as doing so is in the best interest of the parties.

The agenda also includes the standard information reports as follows:

See you at the meeting.

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