Atlanta International School holds town hall meeting to review Board of Education candidate’s positions on the sale of the AIS property [Updated]


[Update – Cynthia Briscoe Brown (AL-8) provided her comments – see below]

The Atlanta International School (AIS) held a town hall meeting this morning to inform school parents which of the Board of Education candidates “embrace” what school representatives referred to as “the public/private partnership” between AIS and the Atlanta Public Schools.

As previously announced, the Atlanta Public Schools administration had negotiated the sale to AIS of the property that the private school currently occupies under a long-term lease. The sales price established was $8.4 million, approximately $6 million in cash and $2.4 million in consulting services to assist APS to establish an International Baccalaureate program, initially in the Maynard Jackson cluster. The negotiated sales transaction required approval by the Board of Education prior to consummation, however, when the transaction was proposed to the Board, opposition to the sale was raised primarily on economic grounds and the transaction was deferred.

AIS officials strongly believe that the proposed transaction is in the best interest of both AIS and APS and conducted candidate interviews to assess their positions on the proposed sale. While not specifically endorsing any candidates, AIS officials indicated that certain candidates were in favor of the sale transaction.

Both incumbent and BoE chair Reuben McDaniel (AL-8) and educator Lori James (AL-9) were present at the meeting and voiced their strong support for completing the transaction with AIS.

McDaniel made a brief presentation and answered questions from the audience. During his presentation McDaniel said, “The public/private partnership will start at Maynard Jackson High School and the IB program will provide the school with a cachet it does not have now…. The price seems reasonable and the economics of the transaction are fine with me.”

Additionally, McDaniel stated that he was strongly promoting the transaction to his colleagues on the Board and that they should move forward aggressively with the sale. McDaniel said, “It is not about economics, it is about creating a great public/private partnership.”

In her presentation, candidate Lori James (AL-9) said, “I got real excited about the partnership between APS and AIS…. You have my support 100%.”

However, several of the candidates that were not at the meeting and whom AIS claimed supported the transaction, stated they had either not formed an opinion on the sale or significantly qualified their support.

In a telephone interview, Taryn Bowman (D-4), stated that, while she supports “private/public partnerships” to enhance the community, she has never stated a position on the sale of the AIS property and would need to look closely at the transaction before reaching a conclusion.

Leslie Grant (D-1), stated that she supported “private/public partnerships”, but has not yet reached an opinion on the specific transaction under consideration and would need additional time to review it to make an informed decision.

In an email, incumbent Courtney English (AL-7) qualified his support and stated that more information was needed regarding any potential transaction. In addition, English stated,

“that his support for the transaction would be contingent upon; a valid and reliable appraisal of the property, a fair price for the property, community input from the broader community that provided the chance to iron out any differences that included; AIS, impacted communities, parents and the school district, the inclusion/replication of AIS’ dual language program in the package of in-kind services, and ultimately that this decision would be in the best interest of kids.”

English went on to say, “that none of these conditions currently exist and that he would not be supportive of the deal in its current form and any information to the contrary is incorrect.”

Update – Cynthia Briscoe Brown (AL-8) provided the following comment:

Despite AIS’ assertions that they “conducted candidate interviews,” not all candidates were given an opportunity to express their views. I would have appreciated the opportunity to listen and learn from this important group of stakeholders, and I look forward to working with them to resolve this issue in the best interests of all stakeholders.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

7 Responses to Atlanta International School holds town hall meeting to review Board of Education candidate’s positions on the sale of the AIS property [Updated]

  1. Tom says:

    “McDaniel stated that he was strongly promoting the transaction to his colleagues on the Board and that they should move forward aggressively with the sale.”

    Slow down Mr. Chairman and let’s think about this. AIS is offering $2.4 million in IB “consulting services.” At what rate? Market value or at AIS cost? If market value, why do we need to sell the property to purchase those services? Why not take the income stream that the property is generating and use that to purchase the services?

  2. Tom says:

    McDaniel said, “It is not about economics, it is about creating a great public/private partnership.”

    Really? We have been running budget deficits, we can’t provide students all the services they need and McDaniel wants to throw away money by selling a $12 million or more piece of property for half price.

    How do the teachers who haven’t had a raise in 5 years feel about that? $6 million would eliminate furlough days for the next 4 years.

    Election day is Nov. 5th. Remember, “in a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

  3. David says:

    Isn’t AIS a 501c3? Why are they getting involved in politics and passing out sample ballots at a town hall meeting? Why are they inviting selective candidates’ to their forum? Shame on AIS – they have lost all bargaining power in regards to this issue in my mind.

  4. Despite AIS’ assertions that they “conducted candidate interviews,” not all candidates were given an opportunity to express their views. I would have appreciated the opportunity to listen and learn from this important group of stakeholders, and I look forward to working with them to resolve this issue in the best interests of all stakeholders.

  5. Cynthia Briscoe Brown says:

    About two hours after I posted the comment above, I received a call from an administrator at AIS who stated the headmaster “very much” wanted to speak with me and asked if I could come to the school today. I agreed and spent about 1-1/4 hours with Headmaster Kevin Glass and Development Director Stewart Lathan. We had a very pleasant conversation during which they answered my questions and presented their reasons for supporting the sale and purchase transaction. I told them, as I have stated publicly, that I respect and admire AIS as an institution and as a neighbor. I am an enthusiastic proponent of the IB program and so support AIS’ mission and vision. As an Atlanta native whose father attended North Fulton High School in the 1940s, I deeply appreciate AIS’ excellent care and stewardship of the historic building in which they reside. Finally, I understand why AIS’ Board and senior staff believes the proposed purchase would benefit their school.

    I have opposed the sale in the past because the primary argument for the sale, as stated by Reuben McDaniel, was to help balance the APS budget. Selling the property for that reason is not only illogical but extremely shortsighted. There are many more productive and responsible steps we can take to balance the budget, such as ensuring all financial information is accurate, reducing central office costs, and eliminating waste.

    As a member of the Atlanta Board of Education I will have an obligation to act in the best interest of every APS student. Right now, I do not have access to information which would allow me to compare the relative benefit of the proposed sale with that of the existing lease. The timing of the transaction would also enter into any calculations. At the end of our conversation I committed to Mr. Glass and Ms. Lathan that, when the proposed sale came before me as a BOE member, I would keep an open mind, gather all relevant information, consider the merits of the transaction carefully, and seek input from all stakeholders. As I have for many years, I will seek common ground and a win-win situation while doing everything I can to act in the best interest of all our children.

  6. Tom says:

    I have noticed McDaniel campaign signs going up in the yards of AIS parents. This should not be an election issue. Don’t we have enough politics in education ? (any politics in education is too much). I have posted unbiased statement of facts on my website (with my commentary at the end). At least make an informed decision.

    Visit http://electtidwell.com/possible-sale-of-former-north-fulton-h-s-to-ais/

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