This past Wednesday, the APS Board of Education Charter School Task Force met to consider ways to improve the relationships and collaboration between traditional and charter schools and then to make recommendations to the full Board. See the full list of members below. The Task Force is charged with the following objectives:
- Identify and exchange policy/programmatic academic best practices between charter and traditional APS schools.
- Identify economies of scale to ensure the financial stability of APS charter and traditional schools.
- To think strategically and collaboratively about the future of charter schools in APS.
Mr. Amos requested that each member provide their thoughts on the pros and cons of the interrelationship between charter schools and APS. The following is a summary of the Task Force members thought on this:
- There is an evolving and positive relationship between with the APS Office of innovation headed by Alan Mueller.
- APS is very good about providing access to surplus facilities to the charter schools.
- The co-location of a traditional and charter middle schools is working out very well.
- The Office of Innovation provides strong support to the charter schools.
- There is a very positive relationship with APS in getting assistance for children with Special Needs.
- Charter schools are able to do a lot very well with much less funding than the traditional schools.
- Alan Mueller is focused on approving high quality charter schools, has fairly evaluated the charter school petitions and has closed down non-performing charter schools.
- Charter school innovations are not being adequately passed on to traditional schools.
- Concerns about the equity of funding between charter and traditional schools.
- There is a lot of data that indicates certain practices – “cherry picking” & “lemon dropping” – are not happening. However, this information is not being adequately disseminated to the public.
- Charter schools are not included in the long-term strategic plan of APS and there is no long-term plan of action regarding charter schools.
- There is a concern that charter schools will take resources away from traditional schools.
- Charter schools are often an afterthought when APS is considering policy, resource allocations and other changes.
- There is not enough communication between traditional and charter schools.
- There is a lack of clarity on the funding that charter schools will receive throughout the funding cycle.
- Charter schools do not take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by APS.
- There is a constant fear that, at any time, a charter school might be shut down. Charter schools do not necessarily trust the APS administration.
- APS has not aligned its internal charter school ideology across the many departments in APS. Often statements and directions coming out of APS departments are in conflict with each other.
It was clear that the Task Force members wanted to collaborate much more effectively and build a much stronger relationship between the traditional schools and charter schools. It should also be noted that the Task Force was unanimous in its praise of Alan Mueller, APS Executive Director of Innovation. It was often noted that he was a fair-minded and supportive of the charter school efforts.
Several members of the public attending the meeting voiced their concerns that there were insufficient traditional or charter school parents on the Task Force. Mr. Amos said he would take this under consideration and discuss it further with the Chairman of the Board.
In the next meeting (not yet scheduled), the Task Force will begin considering recommendations to give to the full Board for their consideration.
Of note, this is the first Committee meeting I have attended in which comments from the audience were entertained by the Board members on the Task Force. It was refreshing to see that there was a good conversation between the Task Force and the audience – I wish this would happen far more often in Board Committee and Task Force meetings as the input from the members of the public in attendance was excellent.
Task Force Members
- BOE member Byron Amos – Chair
- BOE member Leslie Grant
- Dr. Cynthia Kuhlman, Chairperson of Drew Charter School
- Abby Martin, a
chartertraditional school parent
- David Jernigan, Executive Director of KIPP Metro Atlanta
- Matt Underwood, Executive Director of Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (not in attendance, but represented by Suzanne Mitchell)
- Kelly Cadman, VP of School Services at the Georgia Charter Schools Association
- Alan Mueller, APS Executive Director of Innovation;
- Chuck Burbridge, APS CFO (not in attendance due to meeting conflict)
- David White, APS East Region Executive Director
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