Cluster meeting brings up key issues


Ellie Winer

Principal Kevin Maxwell explains Inman’s next steps as the 2018-2019 school year comes to a close.

Anna Fedorova and Ellie Winer

The Grady Cluster community gathered at Inman Middle School on April 17 to outline the past year, answer questions, and discuss plans for the next few years. Among those in attendance were board members At-Large Seat 8 Board Member Cynthia Briscoe Brown, District 1 Board Member Leslie Grant, as well as many principals and assistant principals of schools within the cluster.

Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman presented this year’s data for Grady to the crowd of parents, administrators, and teachers. The school has a proposed budget of $11,858,271 for general operations in the school for the fiscal year 2020. Both a full-time social worker and a band director will be hired, and Bockman has made it a priority to replace all Promethean Boards with newer technology. This money will also go towards Grady’s new building, which is to replace the Instructional Suites by July of 2021.

We were concerned for what the long term planning might look like for facilities as Grady is maxed out and even with renovations it will not create more space with what’s already there,” said Mary Lin parent Annsley Klehr. “On top of that, many of the elementary schools ar already at full capacity and even when Morningside gets its update it still can’t house more students than its already housing. What’s not being talked about is what’s going to happen in the future and how the conversations will go in the future.”

Many other schools in the Grady Cluster plan on improving technology throughout their schools, with a 1-to-1 computer ratio as the goal. Morningside Elementary School has already reached this goal and aims to add another Promethean Wall and Promethean Table. Hope Hill Elementary School plans to have a distribution of 120 iPads for the 1st Grade in the 2019-2020 year.

Data from all schools within the cluster showed an overall increase in attendance and a decrease in free/reduced lunch. Many also have plans to focus on the arts and stress literacy and writing improvement. Test scores have improved across all cluster schools, with Hope Hill having the highest growth in the District on the 2018 Milestones. Grady placed in the 79th CCRPI percentile in 2018 and had a 93 percent graduation rate.

One of the biggest developments discussed at Cluster Night were Inman Middle School’s current plans to move to Howard Middle School in July 2020. Because Inman cannot hold it’s 1,065 students in a single building, it will be converted to an elementary school, which students districted for Morningside will attend for two years. Students attending Inman will then attend Howard. Inman Principal Kevin Maxwell has high hopes for this school and believes it will lead to a more cohesive school community.

“What I’m excited about is that we are all going to be under one roof,” Maxwell said. “I like it because I feel like we’re safer and more secure. It’s easier to protect. Not in the way…of someone harming them, but just seeing how they’re doing every day and making sure that their mental health is strong.”

While charter schools, including Centennial Academy and Kindezi Old Fourth Ward, are in the cluster, no charter school administrators were seen at the meeting. This was a concern to some parents, who voiced that since Centennial Academy is a conversion charter school, it should be included in conversations about issues like .

“Centennial as a charter school is treated like all the charter schools which means that they’re not usually at the table when discussions are happening around capacity issues,” said Centennial and Grady parent Janet Kanard. “Several of the policy changes around charter schools affect Centennial differently because they have that zone of students that have to go to Centennial.”

During the open question forum at the end of the presentation, parents stressed issues ranging from environmental concerns to widespread profanity to equity within schools. As the questions were asked, administrators either answered or deferred to principals of specific schools. Grant addressed equity directly after a parent asked for solutions to the issue.

“There’s a lot of inequity in [Grady] itself,” said Grant. “In terms of a district, we have five schools here who raised over 100,000 a year. Go down to Therrell cluster, that’s not the case. They don’t even have foundations. I hope that we will look at issues like that and that we put our energy around trying to get partnerships that can engage families and communities similar to what Grady has.”