Today, WAOK 1380am radio show host has hot debate on his show with Atlanta Public School Board President Courtney English who has been on the Board for eight years and School Board member Matt Westmoreland who has been on the Board four years. They were joined by community education advocates Mary Palmer, Barbara Leath and myself. We discussed Courtney and Matt both voting for the Superintendents’ plan to close and merge schools south of Interstate I-20 while schools north of I-20 are over crowded.
In an APS 3/3/2017 document, they state that they are looking at all schools with 500 or less students to close or merge. Well, Harper-Archer Middle School has 780 students with a capacity of 968. So, I ask, “Why are you pulling a school into your plan that is not under-enrolled?” Answer is, it is an older building. “How old is Grady High School?” Answer it was built around 1920s. Hmmm! Harper-Archer was built in the early 1960s (as Charles L. Harper High School). Why do you think APS cares more about the age of the building than student achievement?? No clear answer.
Truth of the matter is Cloretta Scott King (CSK) for girls has 412 girls and Best Academy for boys has 425 boys (These are single gender academies. Both schools were built 10 years ago for a total of $90million. CSK was built as a new school. Best is the old West Fulton High School remodeled. Both schools were built for 1600 students each for grades 6-12 right after the government housing projects in the area were torn down and no other housing or economic development projects slated for the area.
More truth: CSK, Best Academy, Harper-Archer Middle and Fredrick Douglass High School are all fighting for the same students. So it is obvious that one or more of these schools needs to close. So why is the age of the building more important than the stability of the students and their communities?? Why disrupt Harper-Archer despite it being the only school of the four that is not under-enrolled?? Isn’t that ludicrous??
Harper-Archer Middle School has had about 17 principals in the past 12 years. The students are victims of a school administration and school board that cannot figure out through three school superintendents and at least three school board elections, how to hire a principal who can stay for three or more years. One year, they had four principals within one school year. Is that the fault of the students?? APS is filled with hundreds of years of staff experience, dozens of PhD staffers, and cannot figure out how to hire a principal within a 12 year period who might last three or more years?? The tenure of principals at Douglass High School is not much better. Over the past five years? They have had four principals.
In contrast, look at the schools north of I-20. You will find lots of long term 10+ year principals. Exceptions occur with recent retirings of long term principals.
How can we expect our students to overcome their numerous challenges at home and arrive at school year after year with a different face in the principal’s office? How do these students get a consistent message from their school leaders year after year?? Even in business organizations need consistent leadership and messages. Now the principals never get to know the students and neither students nor parents get to know the revolving door or principals. And, APS complains about parent and grand parent involvement.
When I was in school, the tenure of the principals at my APS school, C.L. Harper High School (before it was changed to Harper-Archer Middle School) was 10+ years each. Yes. I realize times have changed. But why is it that rapid principal turnover only happens south of I-20? Why is it about three years ago when a principal north of I-20 tried to retire, they gave himmore money to stay??
Changing principals year after year sabotages the learning of our students. It also victimizes our students. They suffer academically, psychologically and in other ways that cannot be measured. Why has APS not figured this out??
The link below shows how a principal turned her school around because she went that extra mile for her student despite their parents not showing up at parent teacher conferences or PTA meetings. She realized this is not rocket scientist work. It is simple when the principals and school administrators care. Please copy this link or search for it on the NBC News website from 3/1/2017.
After you view this video, call APS or local school board to ask:
1) “Have ever tried this when parents participation was low?”
2) “If not, why not?”
And, please call, email, and use your social media to contact APS and tell them to help Harper-Archer MS improve their academic achievement (test scores) and stop any plans to further devastate the school and community…it is not under-enrolled!!
Harper-Archer MS does not need to be dragged into the equation where CSK and Best are under-enrolled. The Harper-Archer students and community did not cause the problem. Stop using our kids as pawns. Give them a principal that you support and help to stabilize the principal’s office.
Hmmm. The quickest way for APS to decrease their number of underachieving schools is to close and merge them at the sacrifice of devastating the students and the communities. Superintendents and school board members come and go. Communities are left suffering for decades from the decisions made by these school leaders. How is this acceptable??
How is this continuing from 22 schools closed by Supt. Hall, seven by Supt. Davis and now 5-7 by Supt. Carstarphen??
Why is there no data to show any increase in student achievement from all of these mergers and closings across three Superintendents?
So, what is the real reason for these closings and mergers?? Why are reading and math scores not going up after the students and communities are devastated??
1) Why not re-draw the lines so the overcrowded schools can fill the under enrolled ones.
2) Why are you closing schools south of I-20 and expanding schools north of I-20??
We know how to make high achieving schools. There is no secret. Ask Cardis Collins of Chicago, Ron Clark of Atlanta and the Award winning schools across Georgia that have similar demographics as APS.
Simply meet our students where they are, give them consistent a long term principal and staff, and stop moving them from school to school every three years as if they are playing musical chairs and no one cares where they sit or if they improve their academic achievement. Besides, there is not a parent on the planet, despite their economic condition, who wants their child to attend a low achieving school!!
Again, please call, email, and/or use social media to ask APS Board members (7 of the 9 are running for re-election this year) these questions or create your own. These board members have to be voted into office. Don’t like what their answers, inaccessibility, or actions? Run against them. Find someone to run against them. Vote against them. Training is offered by several local groups if you or someone you know wants to run.
Simply complaining is not an option. There is too much at stake!!
Thanks again to Derrick Boazman for inviting community education advocates to dialogue with APS Board members “live”, on-air for two hours with so many callers that many could not get through.