ATLANTA SCHOOL BOARD SUPERINTENDENT - MERIA CARSTARPHEN

APS Advances Strategy for Transformation

When I unveiled the APS Turnaround Strategy during the State of the District last October, I explained that because of the longstanding, multi-generational educational needs of our students and a looming, high-stakes potential takeover Opportunity School District, we did not have time to waste. I also expressed that we would move with deliberate speed in a way that would not always be popular or comfortable, but always essential or even critical.
We’ve been working on transforming APS for months: the Day One: Be There attendance campaign, our remediation and enrichment initiative for students affected by CRCT cheating, the launch of a college-access and scholarship partnership with Achieve Atlanta, and the establishment of a College and Career Academy with Atlanta Technical College to name a few. We have embraced a Charter System District model and cluster planning that will mean investments in signature programs for each cluster that creates pathways from kindergarten to graduation.
But we have to do more … because we are a district performing far below the potential of our kids.
Being only weeks into the implementation of our Turnaround Strategy (I invite you to go here to learn more about it), I already have much to report. In addition to the acceleration of the roll-out of social and emotional learning in schools, we have made progress in recruiting turnaround principals and teachers, and providing targeted professional learning for teachers. We are also launching high-impact tutoring in targeted schools immediately as well as a Spring Break Academy this April.
Last semester, we announced a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to solicit interested and qualified education partners who can provide turnaround services, intervention, and supports to dramatically improve student achievement in the short and long term.
At the Feb. 1 meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education, we will present three potential education partners who emerged as finalists to support turnaround work. The Rensselaerville Institute’s School Turnaround program, a nonprofit leadership development initiative designed to assist principals to achieve rapid improvement at low-achieving schools, submitted a proposal to support schools and leaders across the district. The other partners are non-profit organizations with track records of strong student achievement and have submitted proposals to work with schools in the Carver Cluster.
Purpose Built Schools, an arm of Purpose Built Communities and a partner organization with Charles R. Drew Charter School, has proposed to operate Thomasville Heights and Slater elementary schools, Price Middle School and Carver High School. The Kindezi Schools, which runs two successful charter schools in Atlanta, has offered to operate Gideons Elementary School. While both organizations are current charter operators, APS, through this RFQ process, is only considering partnerships that would involve Kindezi and/or Purpose Built Schools serving neighborhood schools with traditional attendance boundaries, not charter schools.
We will spend the next five weeks exploring the big ideas proposed by these partners, and we will do so through community meetings and open houses.
But there are other changes that must occur in the near future and this involves the operating models of some schools in our district. Let me stress first: We do not take the matter of operating model changes lightly. Therefore, we conducted a thorough analysis that considered:
We filtered all considerations through the guiding principles of our Turnaround Strategy. And as a result, I will recommend the following plan to the Atlanta Board of Education on Monday, Feb. 1, for action at its March 7 meeting:
  • Merge Grove Park Intermediate with Woodson Primary in the Douglass Cluster
During the 2012 redistricting process, Woodson Primary School was created as a K-2 site, serving the same attendance zone as Grove Park Intermediate School, which has 3rd through 5th grades. Grove Park’s three-year CCRPI average is 46.5, the third lowest in the district, while Woodson’s 2014 CCRPI is 83.2. Both schools are significantly under-enrolled and need renovations. To ensure stronger alignment between the primary and intermediate program, the schools will consolidate on the Grove Park campus at the start of the 2016-17 school year.
I am pleased to announce that I plan to recommend Dr. Susan Crim McClendon, a veteran APS administrator with a strong track record of performance including her work at Woodson Primary, as the principal of the new merged school.
A proposed Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) could provide as much as $18.5 million for renovations at Grove Park. The vacated Woodson site will be considered for a possible early childhood center.
  • Close Bethune Elementary and open a new innovative K-8 STEM academy at Kennedy Middle in the Washington Cluster
Ever since Kennedy Middle closed during a 2012 redistricting process, the community has asked APS to find ways to repurpose the building and leverage the asset as part of the community’s redevelopment efforts. We hope to use as much as $2 million from current SPLOST funds for facility improvements to the Kennedy building this summer and then – contingent upon SPLOST 2017 funding – another $10 million for a larger scale renovation. The community will be encouraged to participate in a planning process for the new academy including setting the vision for the school, identifying potential STEM partners and ultimately naming the new academy.
I will be recommending Dr. Diamond Jack as the new principal for this STEM school. She has built a strong foundation for STEM as principal of Venetian Hills Elementary and has experience as a middle school math and science teacher as well.
Reopening the school – under the guidance of a turnaround leader with STEM experience – will address Bethune’s three-year CCRPI average of 42.1, the second lowest in the district. Additionally, a new school – starting as a K-5 and adding a middle grade a year in subsequent years – would meet current academic needs and the anticipated growth of the Westside.
  • Merge Connally Elementary with Venetian Hills Elementary in the Washington Cluster
For the new school year, students from both schools would attend classes at Connally, following building improvements this summer. Connally has the third lowest three-year CCRPI average (46.5) in the district; Venetian Hills’ 2014 CCRPI is 76.8. Both schools have very low enrollment numbers and require significant renovations.
I recently appointed Lincoln Woods, an APS veteran and southwest Atlanta native, as principal of Connally, and he has made great strides in rebuilding the culture of the school and building strong partnerships. I’m confident that he will continue his success in a merged school.
About $23.5 million in SPLOST 2017 has been budgeted for a full-scale Connally renovation to serve the merged student population. The Venetian Hills site is also being considered for an early childhood center.
We remain committed to including families, communities and staff in the operating model changes and the education partnership selection process, and we will implement this work in an open, transparent manner. We have scheduled a series of conversations with our stakeholders over the next several weeks to share more about the Turnaround Strategy, proposed school changes and education partners. You can learn more about those sessions here; and I encourage all of you to attend and participate.
Change is never easy. But we must do what is best for students and our mission to prepare each and every one of them for graduation and college/career.


Allean Brown Receives Neighborhoods Matter 2015 Award for NPU-S



The primary purpose of the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board (APAB) Neighborhood Civic Engagement Award Ceremony is to provide a forum to acknowledge noteworthy contributions by individuals, institutions, organizations, groups (churches, civic associations, neighborhood clubs, businesses, etc.) to the City of Atlanta and its neighborhoods.  Allean Brown was the honoree from NPU-S.
Neighborhoods Matter 2015 Award for NPU-S

Robbie Hunter and Eric Toomer present Allean Brown 
with the Neighborhoods Matter 2015 Award 
for NPU-S


Ms. Brown has been very active in community restoration and preservation for many years. Her constant and diverse participation throughout the City of Atlanta demonstrates that not only Southwest Atlanta, but the whole City is near and dear to her heart. Using her background in architecture, historic preservation, transportation, community planning and construction project management, she is often an informed voice for Southwest Atlanta monitoring and reporting Ft. McPherson and Atlanta BeltLine progress, public safety and environmental issues, community health and services needs and promoting local business and employment.

Ms. Brown’s mother was active in NPU-S, Treasurer of Eastridge Neighborhood Watch and Secretary of the Hyacinth Art Circle. Due to health issues, Allean became her stand-in whenever in town between career assignments. Advocacy and love of the natural and built environments sustained Ms. Brown from college, throughout her career and onto her parents’ path of promoting the southwest Atlanta urban forest neighborhoods. Ms. Brown chose to be a community participant in the Fort McPherson BRAC planning and zoning process at the beginning of the Community Benefits Working Groups where she served as:
  • Chair of the Environment, Open Space & Public Health and
  • Co-Chair of Transportation,
  • Facilitator for the Education & Culture and
  • Initiated the inclusion of renewable energy into community benefits proposals developed by the original Community Benefits Working Groups.
  • Charter member and officer of the Georgia STAND-UP supported McPherson Action Community Coalition (MACC) serving as Secretary and Co-chair.
  • Editor of the Georgia Tech graduate studio community benefits compilation report
  • Facilitator in the Georgia (State University) Health Policy Center’s (GHPC) Rapid Health Impact Assessment
  • Member of the GHPC Fort McPherson Photo-Voice project.
Her involvement with the Fort McPherson Redevelopment project has been ongoing since 2006. Ms. Brown is now the NPU-S Community Engagement Subcommittee (CES) representative for Fort Mac and served as the CES chair of the recent Fort Mac Fall Festival/Open House. She is an active community voice on the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) Core Team for the development planning of the Local Redevelopment Authority’s (MILRA) remaining 145 acres.

Recognizing the need to maintain a broader perspective to help solve local issues Ms. Brown has added to her training, career experience and licensed design-build and property inspection business ownership through attending:
  • The STANDUP Policy Institute for Civic Leadership graduate
  • The Partnership for Southern Equity
  • Policylink National Equity Summits
  • NeighborWorks Leadership Institute
  • Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Community Planning Academy
  • Atlanta Regional Housing Forum
  • ARTWORKS and ARTPLACE grants collaboration
  • 2015 LOCUS National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC on Smart Growth and Transit Oriented Development
  • USEPA Environmental Justice Academy
Still championing for the existing local communities, Ms. Brown monitors the primary developments of Fort McPherson, the Transit Oriented Development at the Oakland City MARTA station, the Atlanta BeltLine Westside Trail and the Atlanta Streetcar proposed for Southwest Atlanta through her broad based civic participation to focus on assuring the planning is comprehensive, equitable and inclusive, acutely respective of the existing surrounding community and its progressive future.

In the community she has participated in
  • Southwest Coalition of Concerned Citizens (SWC3)
  • Friends of Rev. James Orange Park at Oakland City and
  • SWANC, (SouthWest Atlanta Neighborhood Collaborative), an effort to establish a community land trust in southwest Atlanta.
  • Proposing to eliminate a community eyesore and drug trafficking site: Ms. Brown created an adaptive reuse design for an abandoned carwash in Venetian Hills.
  • COVE (Cascade, Oakland City, Venetian Hills Engagement, a NeighborWorks facilitated organization) where she supported the late Mrs. Louvenia Gates in reviving the Hardnett-Oakland City Community Garden and participated in the Venetian Hills Elementary School campus improvement project.
She and Mrs. Gates were on the project consultant team selected by Fulton County Health Department to alleviate food deserts by supplying neighborhood corner stores with fresh produce from limited resource Georgia farmers.

Ms Brown is also an active member of the Intown Southwest Atlanta community collaborative that plans and sponsors
  • Development Day Tours introducing outside restaurateurs and food investors to SWAtl
  • Local Business Cash Mobs
  • Business Coaching support for existing community small businesses

In her position as the Transportation Chair Ms. Brown wrote the NPU-S response to the MARTA TOD proposal at Oakland City and spoke on behalf of NPU-S at the City Council public hearing. She was also instrumental in pressing community concerns over public safety issues during the demolition and site prep of a neighborhood business conversion. From serving as the NPU-S representative for the BeltLine Subarea Master Planning, Ms. Brown was appointed to the Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District Advisory Commission (TADAC) by the BeltLine Network, nominated by STANDUP, to monitor community benefits. She was elected Vice Chair of the BeltLine TADAC and co-chair of its Economic Development Sub-committee. Ms. Brown was appointed NPU-S representative and elected Vice Chair of the Campbellton Road TAD.



2015 Neighborhood Civic Engagement Award Ceremony

IMAGINE, ENGAGE AND STRIVE with Neighborhood Planning Unit-S (NPU-S) the 3rd Thursday of every month at VICARS, 838 Cascade Ave

Join your neighbors on Thursday, December 17 @ 7:00 pm as we seek to improve the quality of life in the communities of Cascade Avenue, Oakland City, Venetian Hills, Bush Mountain, Richland Hills, Ashmel Estates and surrounding neighborhoods. Get important information from Public Works, Watershed Management, MARTA TOD, Ft. McPherson redevelopment, Fulton County Solicitor, APD, AFD and elected officials from the City of Atlanta, Fulton County and State of Georgia. Serve on a NPU-S committee and get to work making positive changes in YOUR neighborhood. The education of our youth is an important and urgent issue, This is not a them or they issue, it is a me, you and us issue. Residents - support your local schools and neighborhoods. Come out, become informed and make a difference. There is a position of service waiting for you at NPU-S. Looking forward to seeing you there and please bring a neighbor!