Atlanta Public School Board Education meeting on Monday at 3 p.m. – some comments and questions on the agenda

September 7, 2014

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting tomorrow at 3 p.m. The following is a brief review of the published agenda for the Work Session, Committee of the Whole and Legislative Session. See the full Meeting Agenda and attachments here.

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

  • Board Retreat Summary – Courtney D. English, Board Chair – Board Retreat Summary – The Board spent a full day considering the districts mission and vision and drafted a new version of each – see more this topic here.
  • School System Operating Models and Flexibility Options Update – Angela Smith, Special Assistant to the Superintendent – the Advisory Task Force has now met four times (see audio and video of the meetings to date here). In addition a series of community meetings have been held. The district is scheduled to select a preliminary model by October 6th and to make a final decision by November 3rd.
  • 2013/2014 Year-End Achievement Summary – William Caritj, Chief Accountability and Information Officer – This will be the first time we hear from Mr. Caritj. His position is a new one for APS and he served in the same position with Dr. Carstarphen in Austin. Hopefully we will hear more about his job description and what his plans are for the upcoming year. The presentation should be very interesting as it represents the baseline against what the new administration will be measured as we move forward.
  • FY 2016 Budget Planning Draft Parameters and Draft Timeline – Chuck Burbridge, Chief Financial Officer – Now this is refreshing – the district is beginning the much-needed process of establishing the guidelines for developing the budget for next year. This will be the first discussion on the key guidelines that will be used for budgeting purposes. In addition, the administration has been working on revising the financial information that is presented on a regular basis and we may see the outlines of how the interim financial information will be improved in the future.

The Consent Agenda is pretty straight forward, but there are a few items that give some hints of upcoming organizational changes. In this regard, the items to watch for are:

Report No. 14/15-5103 Personnel Actions (Gains, Losses, Appointments, Creations and Reclassifications) – see detail here. Some of the interesting items in the Report are:

  • As of the last Board meeting, the Superintendent reported that all but nine teaching positions had been filled. Since then, there have been 17 new teachers hired and 16 teachers have resigned, for a net increase of one.
  • The principal at Harper-Archer Middle School Dawson Jermaine has resigned.
  • Of note, Mikkal Hart-Murunga, who has served as Executive Director of External Affairs and previously also headed up the Communications Dept., has resigned for personal reasons. The Superintendent has telegraphed in the past that this area would be reorganized and Murunga’s resignation along with the installation of Jill Strickland Luse as Executive Director of Communications and Public Engagement earlier this year, indicate the process appears to be well underway.

Report No. 14/15-1125 Authorization to Align Budgets to New Organizational Charts – The Superintendent is changing the organizational structure of APS and this resolution simply realigns the resources to be consistent with the new organizational structure – see reallocations of the budget here. While this item is on the Consent Agenda, I would hope that a Board member pulls it from the Consent Agenda and that the Superintendent takes the opportunity to present the revised organizational structure in more depth. A simple slide presentation with the revised executive level organizational strurcture and one additional slide for each senior executive’s division would suffice.

As noted above, the rest of the Consent Agenda is non-controversial and is as follows:

  • Report No. 14/15-1707 Approval of Annual Agenda Planning Calendar – see planned agenda items here.
  • Report No. 14/15-1708 Authorization to Revise Policy EEE School Nutrition and Wellness Programs (Final Approval) – see here.
  • 2.03 Report No. 14/15-1709 Authorization to Revise Policy BBBA Board Statement of Values (Final Approval) – see here.
  • 2.04 Report No. 14/15-1710 Authorization to Revise Policy GARD Employee Hiring and Compensation (First Reading) – see here.
  • Report No. 14/15-1711 Authorization to Repeal Policy GA Leadership Personnel (First Reading) – see here.
  • Report No. 14/15-1712 Authorization to Revise Policy BA Goals & Objectives (First Reading) – see here.

Note – the Board Policy Review Committee, chaired by Eshe’ Collins and supported by APS staff Rebecca Kaye, has done an excellent job in starting the process of reviewing many of the APS policies and making recommendations for consolidating and updating the policy statements. It also appears that the process will continue as the Policy Review Committee will be meeting regularly on a monthly basis (for a listing of the next series of Board Committee Meetings – see here).

The following are the Consent Agenda contracts for approval:

  • Report No. 14/15-1126 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide HVAC Equipment Coil Cleaning Services – $300,000.
  • Report No. 14/15-1127 Authorization to Purchase Carpeting and Floor Covering from the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) Contracts – $160,000.
  • Report No. 14/15-1128 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide IEP Online Software, Upgrades and Customizations – $225,023.
  • Report No. 14/15-1129 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide Web-Based Literacy Support and Intervention for Students in Grades 9-12 – $270,890.
  • Report No. 14/15-1130 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract to Provide Web-Based Adaptive Mathematics Intervention to Students in Grades 9-12, Coordinate Algebra and Analytic Geometry – $137,250.
  • Report No. 14/15-1131 Authorization to Amend Report No. 12/13-1110 to Provide a GPS Vehicle Tracking and Telematics System – $275,629.
  • Report No. 14/15-1132 Authorization to Enter into and Execute a Contract with Gallup to Provide Strength Based Leadership Training – $300,000.

None of the contracts noted above appear to be controversial or excessive in terms of cost. However, as a Board member I would want to know the answers to the following questions on each contract to which it would apply:

  1. Have we done business with the selected vendor in the past, and is so, was the relationship and quality of services delivered satisfactory?
  2. For contracts that are renewals of services previously obtained, what was the prior cost of the services and how much of an increase is represented by the new contract?
  3. The contracts are all covered by existing budgeted resources in the current year. Do any of the contracts require increases in budgeted resources over the current baseline in future years?
  4. For contracts that have an educational outcome implication (ex. IEP Online Software, Upgrades and Customizations), what expectations does the administration have in terms of improving educational outcomes or reducing overall costs (or both) as a result of entering into the contract?
  5. For those contracts in item 4 above, when will the administration come back to the Board with an assessment of the results obtained from the contractual relationship?

Also, since the Board has adopted a process of not asking questions about Consent Agenda items during the meetings as they are supposed to have asked all the relevant questions in advance, I will assume that the Board members have asked the questions above (among others), are fully satisfied with the answers they received and they are perfectly comfortable being held accountable as they adopt the contracts.

The Board is scheduled then to go into Executive Session to discuss any personnel matters, real estate matters and litigation. When they report out of Executive Session, they will consider the Hearing Tribunal’s recommendation for the following employees – Nikki Turner; Erich Thomas; Nassar Raheem; Adrian Jackson; Ryan Furlough; and Vivian Carter-Cain.

The Board will then hear public comments and then move into the Legislative Session to formally adopt the decisions that were made during the Committee of the Whole items noted above.

See you there!

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


Round-Up of APS Headlines from the Past Week [Updated]

September 6, 2014

APS News

***APS Operating Model Selection Process

*** Board of Education & Committee Meetings

  • Board of Education meeting – Monday, September 8, 2014 – 3:00 p.m. [time corrected]
  • District 3 Townhall Meeting – September 17 – 6:30-8:00 p.m. – Board Members Matt Westmoreland and Cynthia Briscoe Brown – Dr. Meria Carstarphen presenting – Inman Middle School (School Auditorium), 774 Virginia Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306
  • District 6 Townhall Meeting – September 18 – 6:30-8:00 p.m. – Board Members Jason Esteves and Eshe’ Collins – Dr. Meria Carstarphen presenting – Crawford Long Middle School, 3200 Latona Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30354
  • Policy Review Committee – 9:00a.m. – September 11 – Eshe’ Collins, Esq., Chair
    • (Update) Community comments  on Board Mission & Vision
    • (Review) Family Engagement Regulations
    • (Follow up) DC Operating Budget
  • Accountability Commission – 11:30a.m. – September 11 – Leslie Grant, Chair
    • (Review & Discuss) Superintendent Evaluation instrument
  • Board Development Committee – 1:00p.m. – September 11 – NancyMeister, Chair
    • (Review) Board Development Calendar
  • Audit Commission – 3:00p.m. – September 11 – Byron Amos, Chair
    • Fiscal Year 2013 Status Audit Work Plan
    • Consent Item: Fiscal Year 2014 Provisional Work Plan
    • Communication Plan

***APS Cheating Scandal

***Other APS News

Non APS News and Opinions of Interest

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


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

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


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

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


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.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


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.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


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.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon & Facebook]


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 575 other followers

%d bloggers like this: