The Atlanta Public School’s administration has revised the agenda for today’s Board of Education meeting as follows (for a complete review of the agenda items – see here):
Combine Coan and King Middle Schools – see recommendation here with the following reasoning (emphasis added),
The Jackson cluster has two feeder middle schools. Both schools are underutilized in a school system where staff and other critical resources are tied to student enrollment.
Sammye E. Coan Middle School has a current population of approximately 260 students. The facility is designed to hold 1,025 students. There are 441 students living in the Coan zone, which means approximately 50 percent of the in-zone students attend Coan. Within the next five years, Coan attendance is not estimated to exceed 300 students.
Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School has a population of an estimated 460 students in a building that is designed to hold 1,000 students. Of the 718 students living in the King zone, nearly 60 percent of the students attend King.
Combine Coan and King middle schools at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Students at Coan and King middle schools would merge to form a new Jackson cluster middle school. Students in the newly formed middle school would be located at the Coan campus for one to two years while King receives a major $10 million to $20 million renovation from current SPLOST funds to reflect current design principles for educational facilities. Enhanced student supports and social services (e.g., security, social worker, counselors, etc.) would be added at the Coan building as part of an active plan to ensure a smooth transition for all students.
Comment – This consolidation of schools is very reasonable. Leaving two schools open that are underutilized simply results in an a lower amount of resources for each student body. The savings from closing one school – which include school administrative and operations support staff – should result in those savings being brought back into the unified school.
Carstarphen Election as Superintendent – Also, as a scheduling note, the Board will meet at 11:45 a.m., but intends to immediately move into Executive Session to further consider the last details associated with Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen’s contract. The actual vote to elect her as the next APS superintendent will be held at approximately 1:30 p.m.
FY15 Budget – The FY15 Budget has been pulled from the agenda.
Comment – My sense is that there is some discomfort on the Board regarding the fact that no expenditures have been reallocated from administrative functions to direct instruction activities. All newly elected Board members included this reallocation in their campaigns during the last election and, so far, the administration has been unwilling to conform to the Board’s requests on this issue.
While I believe there are other alternatives to deal with the budget and get it passed so that the new superintendent can weigh in and make the needed changes, it appears as if the Board is going to try to continue negotiating with an administration that has clearly stated it is not budging.
It is time to move on – the current administration is not a willing partner in this discussion – and with two feet out the door, any further discussion with them on the budget is futile and can only result in mischief and cause disarray. The Budget Commission and the Board should maintain their stance on reallocation or reduction of expenditures, but also send a message to the current administration that their time is past and the Board is moving forward with the new superintendent.
How can they do this? Simple – pass the current budget “as is” and place a moratorium on $15-25 million in spending that cannot be spent or committed until the new superintendent reviews the budget and makes recommendations for changes.
This will kill two birds with one stone – the current administration is bypassed without an unnecessary fight and the new superintendent will show us her position on spending issues early in her administration. I would suggest that her historical performance on these issues is completely in-line with the campaign promises made by the Board.
It is time to move on and give the new superintendent the flexibility to quickly begin reshaping an administration that has been unresponsive and self-serving at best.
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