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I. Welcome & Introductions
Vice Chair Ron Grunwald called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. A quorum was present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the August were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be considered for BCN membership.
IV. Procedure To Establish a Formal BCN Resolution
Chair Tom Tidwell outlined the need for BCN to become more effective in taking public positions to influence public policy to the benefit of Buckhead neighborhoods and residents. He handed out copies of the proposed protocol, asking representatives to discuss the process with their neighborhood associations to see if they have any feedback, especially if a neighborhood says they can’t take positions. Care will be taken to protect the interests of individual neighborhoods that might be particularly impacted by a particular proposed policy.
This procedure might be relevant soon since the October BCN meeting will involve discussions about the two TSPLOST initiatives. A motion may be introduced for BCN to take a position on these initiatives before the November elections.
V. Opportunity School District – Proposed Consititutional Amendment
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”
Erin Hames, current President of ReformEd and the former Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Legislative Affairs for Governor Nathan Deal
Michelle Constantinides, Involved parent who has served on numerous APS committees, task forces and school council
This was an impassioned discussion in preparation for a decision by voters in the November 8 election on this proposed constitutional amendment. The issue is what to do about the state’s chronically low-performing public schools and whether a change in the management of those schools is a solution to the problems their students have been experiencing. There seemed to be general agreement that the performance of some schools is indeed poor. There seemed to be a common sentiment that Atlanta Public School System was acting aggressively and effectively to address their problem schools by its actions which include conversion of their schools to a charter system and that it might not be immediately impacted. Other than that, there seemed to be little agreement on what the facts were or what to do.
A step by step chronology of the speakers’ presentations and comments by attendees would take pages to accurately summarize. So these minutes will summarize the public positions of the two sides:
For the amendment: This was led by Erin Hames. Quoting from Gov. Deal’s web site:
- In order to turn around struggling schools, Gov. Nathan Deal proposed creation of an Opportunity School District (OSD). Based on similar, successful initiatives in Louisiana and Tennessee, it would authorize the state to temporarily step in to assist chronically failing public schools and rescue children languishing in them.
- In the governor’s proposal, persistently failing schools are defined as those scoring below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measure, the College and Career Performance Index, for three consecutive years.
- The OSD would take in no more than 20 schools per year, meaning it would govern no more than 100 at any given time.
Schools would stay in the district for no less than 5 years but no more than 10 years, and would then return to local control.
Learn more about Louisiana’s Recovery School District and Tennessee’s Achievement School District. Read more about Deal’s proposal below:
- State of the State: Great challenges require great cooperation
- Deal unveils Opportunity School District legislation
- Deal: Senate gives hope to students, parents
Against the amendment: This was led by Michelle Constantinides. Quoting from the Georgia PTA Position Statement on the Opportunity School District, handed out at the BCN meeting:
While the Georgia PTA recognizes a need for state assistance for chronically low-performing schools, Senate Bill 133, the “Opportunity School District,” does not align with legislative priorities or the “Operation Ready to Learn” resolution passed by the delegates of the Georgia PTA.
The 2015-2016 Georgia PTA legislative priorities are to support efforts to increase state spending to education and use of public funds for public schools only, and to support constitutional authority of local school boards of education to control or manage schools in their system. The Georgia PTA strongly supports local control of public education and adequate state funding for public schools, and the Georgia PTA’s mission is to engage parents in the education of their children. “Operation Ready to Learn,” a resolution passed by Georgia PTA delegates at the 2015 convention, resolved to assist schools in utilizing community resources, to assist parents in advocating for the needs of their children, and to encourage local schools to improve access to school resources for families. The “Operation Ready to Learn” resolution advocates for parents to collaborate with state and local leaders to increase student achievement and equity for all children.
Senate Bill 133, the “Opportunity School District,” calls for an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia that would allow for the creation of a statewide school district under the control of a Governor-appointed, state-level Superintendent. This amendment to our Constitution would remove control of local public schools; strip funding for local public schools; restrict community access to public facilities, instructional materials, and school equipment.
Because the “Opportunity School District,” as passed by the 2015 Georgia General Assembly, does not align with the Georgia PTA legislative priorities or the Georgia PTA “Operation Ready to Learn” resolution, the Georgia PTA does not support the Constitutional Amendment as currently created by Senate Bill 133.
BCN has taken no position on this issue. We appreciate the spirited, informative, and polite debate that the invited participants and audience members on both sides provided to BCN meeting attendees, including Atlanta BOE members Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, Cynthia Brown, Jason Esteves, and Nancy Meister.
For another perspective on this meeting’s difficult to summarize discussion, see Atlanta INtown/Reporter Newspaper reporter Collin Kelley’s article at http://www.atlantaintownpaper.com/2016/09/proponents-and-opponents-debate-merit-of-opportunity-school-district/.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business/Announcements
Jim Elgar, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Policy Research for the Office of City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, provided an update on a proposed city ordinance to abolish so-called “broken windows” laws. This proposed ordinance would eliminate prohibitions of many current offences.
The list of ordinances to be removed is two pages long and includes, for example, prohibitions against:
Sec. 106-4. – Impersonating or wearing uniform of police officer.
Sec. 106-130. – Defecating or urinating on public property or in areas.
Sec. 106-82. – Unauthorized persons entering school buildings.
Sec. 106-83. – Unauthorized persons not to remain in school buildings when requested to leave.
Sec. 106-84. – Creating a disturbance at schools.
The ordinance is now held in committee. Jim said that City Council President Mitchell opposes this ordinance. He encourages us to become familiar with the ordinance.