With Atlanta taking on the role of a “New Hollywood,” Grady has attracted festivals and movie filming. Though the events are exciting, there remains an underlying issue regarding the allocation of money gained from these attractions.
Since she became principal, Dr. Betsy Bockman has been aware that members of the Grady community wonder whether the money raised is being handled properly. It is important to her that Grady doesn’t come off as if it is sponsoring events just for the money.
“When I first got here, the money kind of felt very murky to me, and I just didn’t know where it was going,” Dr. Bockman said. “So the [Grady] foundation, PTSA and I have really tried cleaning it up.”
Some parents and students said they are unaware of how the money gained from entertainment events is being used for Grady.
“I know Grady has been used in a couple of movies and for festivals like Music Midtown in the past few years, but no one really knows what the money is used for,” junior Margaret Rose said. “I personally haven’t noticed any big changes to our school funded from these events, so it’s uncertain among students where the money is going.”
When the school is used by outside parties, the Grady administration works to ensure the school benefits in some way or another.
“The movies that have used Grady have resulted in a rewiring of the gym, painting in the cafeteria, and fixing the trophy case and auditorium,’’ said Grady assistant principal Dr. David Propst. “They are very beneficial to Grady and leave the place better than when they started.”
Big budget movies and television shows like “Teen Wolf”, “Ride Along’, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” have used Grady’s school grounds. For Spider- Man, donations were given to the specific departments used in the film. For example, G3 Robotics, Grady’s robotics team, received $1,000 from the movie studio.
Before the school administration can contract parties interested in using Grady’s facilities, all negotiations must go through the district in the Atlanta Public Schools’ central office.
Technically, Grady alone has total financial authority over their parking lots. Consequently, the school itself negotiates with Music Midtown coordinators. This year, Music Midtown is giving $20,000 the school: $10,000 to the PTSA and the other $10,000 to APS Athletics. They are also donating gently used sound equipment for the Black Box Theatre.
Some members of the Grady community worry there is not enough compensation for the amount of disruption to the school and surrounding area.
On Aug. 22, American Idol housed its auditions in Piedmont Park through negotiations with the city government. The district was not notified of this event and was unable to take the precautions necessary to minimize any disturbances to the area.
“Our teachers, parents and students had no parking,” said PTSA President Alex Coffman. “Buses were late. Advanced notice from the city or the parks department would have assisted parents, students and faculty to leave earlier.”
In the future, Grady hopes to continue partnering with films and festivals because of the benefits to the school. However, community members may also advocate for impact fees to deal with disturbances.
Atlanta, unlike other cities, does not require impact fees from events. Impact fees would go to the nonprofits in the area, providing a flat fee that everyone would know about.
“The Boston Marathon pays every neighborhood they run through, every civic association, every institution an impact fee because they know they’re causing a disruption. No one pays that here,” said Dana Persons, a Grady parent who is working to introduce legislation in Atlanta for impact fees.
There are positives and negatives to the finances surrounding Grady’s affiliation with different events.
“Personally, as a parent, I think Grady gets a raw deal,” said Persons. “The city sees entertainment as their number one priority and not education. I think our education is impacted more than anyone could ever imagine.”