Recap of Atlanta Public School Board of Education meeting held on October 6th

The Atlanta Public School Board of Education held it’s regularly scheduled monthly yesterday. For a detailed review of the Agenda see yesterday’s post here. The following is a recap of the proceedings – you can see the video of the live stream here.

As I noted yesterday, the most interesting part of the meeting was during the Work Session in which there were five presentations, as follows:

District Strategic Planning Process – Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, Superintendent – see presentation materials at Strategic Planning Board Meeting October 6.pptx (3,964 KB)

Dr. Carstarphen presented the work to-date on the strategic planning process. In the presentation, there were to items of note. The first was an integrated look at how the plan will come together in its development and implementation. The following slide shows the sources of input for the plan development, the areas that are informed by the strategic plan (cluster plans and operating model), the development of a budget to fund the plan and then it subsequent implementation.
Strat Plan Process 100614
The second item that was of interest is the slide depicting how APS will operate. As you can see, the traditional pyramid of a “top down” structure has been flipped over. Students are at the top of the inverted pyramid and central administration is at the bottom.

Inverted Pyramid 100614
Carstarphen is delivering a very strong message to the entire organization – every function is there to support student learning. If a function is out of step with the new culture she is bringing to APS then it must change – or the department and division leadership will change.

While this may look like common sense – the students are the top priority – that is not how the prior administrations operated. This represents a sea change in how APS intends to operate – central administrators are there to support school based leaders who are there to support teachers. And the entire structure focuses on students (and hopefully educational outcomes).

School System Operating Models and Flexibility Options Advisory Recommendation to the Administration

Angela Smith, Special Assistant to the Superintendent – see presentation materials at 20141006 Advisory Committee Operating Models Recommendation and Report Oct 6 v3.pptx (1,418 KB) and prior post on the matter here. Smith presented the recommendation of the Advisory Committee – that a Charter System be adopted – to the Superintendent and the Board for their consideration. After the presentation two members of the Advisory Committee joined Smith for a Q&A with the Board. There were some interesting insights into the Advisory Committees deliberations and conclusions, as follows:

  • 71% of the Committee members were in favor of the Charter System – 21% for IE2.
  • Board member Amos asked “Is this what the community wants” – the answer was yes, but there were concerns about the implementation process.
  • Board member Lee stated, “I have strong reservations about all the choices – they are bad, worse and God awful. How do we ensure equity? …The work is just beginning.”
  • Board member Brown asked “How will the community be involved in the process? … We need to know before the next meeting.” Smith responded that they were developing a draft of a process.
  • Board member Esteves asked the Advisory Committee members – “What fired up the Task Force to go to a Charter System?” Advisory Committee member Janet Kinard stated that having 700-800 parents across the district involved and engaged in the Local School Governing Boards was what tipped the balance for her.

It was interesting to note that the anticipated start of the implementation phase (if approved) was not until FY17. The next steps are for the Superintendent and the Board to consider the Committee’s recommendation and then vote on the matter in the November Board meeting.

Teacher and Leader Appraisals Merit Pay – William Caritj, Chief Accountability and Information Officer & Pamela Hall, Chief Human Resources Officer – see presentation materials at Final9-30BdPresentationAppraisalsMeritP.pptx (750 KB)

The plan to assess teachers and school leaders for allocating the merit pay is complex and detailed. For those of you that want to know and understand the details, please see the presentation materials.

Middle School Configuration for North Atlanta Cluster – Larry Hoskins, Chief Operating Officer – see presentation materials at MS Configuration N ATL Cluster–Oct 6 2014 BOE Meeting.pptx (246 KB)

This presentation was brought to the Board to bring them up to date on the implementation of a 6th grade academy at the old Sutton school. Carstarphen indicated that the planning was moving forward. It appeared as if she was taking steps to comply with a Board directive from last year, but her heart was not in it. My sense is that she has reservations about the 6th grade academy, but accepts that the decision has been made.

In addition, there was a substantial amount of discussion regarding the use of the new Sutton Middle School (formerly the North Atlanta High School campus). The presentation indicated that the facilities were more than adequate, but that some changes to how the facility is used might improve the flow of activities during the day. The surprise was that after Hoskins and one of his staff made the presentation, Board member Meister weighed in and stated that in her recent meeting with parents and other representatives of the middle school, they had reached a conclusion that was at odds with the presentation made by the administration.

My sense is that this issue will come up again as it was clear that there were very significant differences of opinion on the matter.

FY 2015 General Fund Monthly Financial Update Overview – Chuck Burbridge, Chief Financial Officer – see presentation materials at _FY 2015 Financial Format Draft 09162014.pptx (122 KB)

CFO Burbridge presented a new format for the monthly financial information. It has more detail on both the revenue and the expenditures in comparison to budget. I will say that it is a step forward, but it is a long way from being optimal. A case in point – the presentation now categorizes all expenditures based on the State defined functions – not based on how the expenditures were presented in the budget process. In addition, while there are many variances from budget presented (as would be expected), there was no explanation provided for the variances and there was no assessment as to whether the district was on track to meet the FY15 budget. I know it is early in the year and the financial information to date is limited, but variances should be explained and some assessment of if the district is on track should be provided.

During the Legislative Session, the entire Consent Agenda (see the detail here) was passed with no questions or comments from Board members.

The Board took action on a number of items when they came out of Executive Session including accepting the tribunal recommendation not to renew contracts for three employees, granting civil service review for two employees and accepting settlements on the Atlanta Preparatory Academy and Michael Rogers litigation.

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One Response to Recap of Atlanta Public School Board of Education meeting held on October 6th

  1. tom says:

    I disagree with your perception of Dr. Carstarphen’s position. I have heard her express concerns about adding a transition at that stage but I also think she understands the academic and program needs at Sutton that can’t be met if the school is overcrowded, and the latter seems to be her priority.

    I think the issue about whether to open a 6th grade academy next year currently revolves around an age-old problem at APS – getting accurate factual data on which to base a decision.

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