APS Board Meeting: Feb. 1

The Southerner

On Feb. 1, the Board met to address SPLOST financial planning, APS budget expenditures and revenue, and Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s turnaround plan. As a response to failing APS schools, which are being considered to become part of the Opportunity School District (OSD), the turnaround program hopes to transform APS’s lowest performing schools through a dramatic realignment of their structure. Most concerned about Douglass, Washington and Carver clusters, Carstarphen plans to partner with Purpose Built Schools of Atlanta to reform Carver High, Price Middle and Slater and Thomasville Heights Elementary. Working with Kindezi, a firm specializing in creating a network of public elementary through middle school charter schools, the Board wants to transform Gideons Elementary. Then in the Washington cluster, Carstarphen plans to close Bethune Elementary and move students into Kennedy Middle School, which will become the city’s first K-8 school. Although Carstarphen believes the plans will continue keeping neighborhoods’ voices, many are skeptical.

Common consensus amongst speakers was frustration ranging from needing new facilities for Grady’s baseball team to feeling as though Carstarphen wasn’t being transparent when creating the turnaround model. Especially concerned all teachers will have to reapply for their positions, many spoke out against the proposed changes. Another recurring opinion was the the turnaround plan came as a shock to the community, and the first step should be identifying the causes of low performances from schools.

“Whether they close the schools or Carstarphen comes up with another turnaround model, it’s going to impact the entire district,” said Tomeka Hart, Vice president of Programs at Southern Education Foundation. “No one wants to talk about closing schools and those tough decisions, but those are things the community needs to grapple with. If APS don’t get proactive, then they’re going to have to deal with whatever the state hands down to them. This is [Carstarphen]’s way of taking a very tough decision and trying to come up with a solution.”

APS budget’s state and local funds are being received as expected. For the current fiscal year, Aps has received 74.79% of the 459 million dollars in local tax funding for 2016 as compared to 410 million last year at the same time. The school system is still expecting another 45.2 million dollars for the year. APS has expended 296.8 million dollars or 42.2% of 703.4 million dollars budget.

Grady High School will receive an upcoming 100 million dollars in SPLOST funding.

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