Absolutely true: Simama's kids attended Paideia. And good for them- it's a great school. But when Mom doesn't like other kids getting a good education (through the charters), and Dad's business dealings (which made Paideia possible for them) are, at best, questionable, hypocrisy is the word that comes to mind.
R. Welsh's supporters keep trying to paint Carla Smith as unethical, uncaring, and dismissive. That she has such strong support is due to the direct services, contacts and advice she's provided. Welsh only provides platitudes- how can you argue against poverty, fighting crime, and housing issues? Welsh himself has not made any mark, anywhere. Saying Carla has neglected any part of her district is ludicrous: she has strong supporters in every corner of it, and as evidence see the list of homes that hosted meet-and-greets. City Council can only do so much about the larger economic forces at play, but she has helped countless business owners get through the mazes at City Hall. She's worked with every neighborhood org. in the district, as a matter of fact any interested citizen that has tried to better their little corner of the city. She's dealt with all the problem rental complexes, working with ownership when they they have the interests of the tenants at heart, against them when they don't, with the support of the residents themselves. Her office fields calls and works on problems more properly the purview of officials in city, county, state and Federal offices, but takes what action they can to help the citizen.
Maybe Rick Laupus would like to enlighten us on how Welsh used funds to get his mugshots off commercial shake-down web pages (DUI, illegal concealed weapon, etc.). Maybe Laupus has class envy about Grant Park, seeing as he himself moved from Alpharetta to take advantage of his aforementioned Neighborhood Stabilization Program himself, and has not found himself afforded- at taxpayer expense- a lifestyle to which he was accustomed.
SE Atlanta has many challenges, but far fewer since Carla came to office. She's appeared in court with us, been at our meetings, been at our homes, sat in with us in discussions with police, Housing Code, Buildings Department, Watershed, you name it. That everything isn't 'fixed' isn't hers, or our, faults: we're work-in-progress, but progress it is.
"Leslie Grant? Really? She is a tool of Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and his family."
This is funny, it is so absurd. Suzanne Mitchell, sister-in-law of Ceasar Mitchell, is Leslie Grant's campaign manager. Suzanne is president of the Summerhill neighborhood group, and heavily involved with the MH Jackon cluster's schools, as is her husband. Do not be deceived by family ties: Suzanne Mitchell does her own homework, has her own insights, inspirations and opinions. Her love of family is deep, but don't think she doesn't push her opinions to those family members! Suzanne is Leslie's campaign manager because she believes in Leslie's stands and vision for APS, not the other way around. Both ladies listen- there's a novel political idea!- but they do their own homework and research. These are two smart chicks, committed, involved and indebted to no one. This City is lucky to have such individuals of integrity and commitment.
Leslie Grant has provided strong leadership and support for all schools, charter and the regular public schools. She was involved in starting Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS, K-8), but has also been active in other schools: she helped patrol the halls at Maynard Jackson HS, was on the Local School Council, and worked with the renovation team, all without a child there. Her results: security guards and hall monitors at Jackson; the removal of an inept principal and the hiring of an All-Star (Ms. Stephanie Johnson); the addition of a new gym, field house (restrooms, etc.) for the athletic fields, vegetable and botanic gardens for the school's roof. All that, without an official position, without a kid at the school. She has been a stellar example of what a concerned citizen- and parent- can do. She's smart, does her research, and brings energy and insight to tasks.
Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is a system that is set up for adults: for the exec's, the central office hordes, and the administrators' careers. It is not set up for the education of high-needs children, and it shows: the sense of urgency that is needed to change a system that does not graduate even half its students is nowhere to be found. Simple perusal of the raw enrollment figures from the state DOE (http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_…) will show that even the recent claim of a 51% graduation rate (after claiming an over 70% rate during the B. Hall years) is a statistical figment of some central office bureaucrat's imagination: check the numbers of freshman in a given year, then go ahead to the March figures 4 years later: 50% aren't still enrolled, much less graduating. And we see the results on the street corners and crime reports, don't we?
APS is not set up to support good, quality teachers or principals, either. It is a jobs program, those jobs tied to who-you-know: that's where the individuals on the Board get their power, trading their endorsements for employees, for inside information. Competence is not currently a requirement, but loyalty ranks #1. Raise a complaint, and you will be ostracized, put on notice and either forced out through bogus evaluations or harassed into leaving- that's how the cheating scandal happened.
But a New Day is here: the charter parents are doggedly involved, and through the pains of the 2012 re-districting of student attendance zones, regular school parents are also involved in unprecedented numbers (for APS, that is). Supt. Davis, although constrained by his interim status, set that ball rolling. The incompetent, the superfluous, the unqualified are fighting back by tossing out red-herring arguments about public school "takeovers," charter school "Trojan horses," and TFA "conspiracies." Look for yourself at what is working- and is not- and who is working- and is not.
The current Board- with the exception of Courtney English- has been asleep at the wheel. Thank them for their duty, and send them on their way, away from school children.
Too many people confuse the charter v.regular public school debate (and remember, charters *are* public schools) with the situation in APS: of the 11 charter schools in the district, only one is not a non-profit (and that one is probably the worst performing one). The rest were started by parents and citizens, some with outside organizational help and support (KIPP academies, Wesley International (Imagine), Drew (Cousins Development), some with only local support (ANCS). As intowner2 stated above, these non-profit charters were born as a result of community needs being ignored or dismissed by APS, and have given parents the option of staying in the City- a major reason these neighborhoods weathered the recent housing crisis, and the stability of these neighborhoods keeps them attractive. These charters have forced the regular APS schools to 'up their game,' and it has worked: Maynard Jackson HS has the International Baccalaureate program, for example (Wesley has IB, K-8).
One candidate, Nisha Simama, has condemned the charters as , "robbing public school students." Ms. Simama, whose family fortunes have been tied to felon, former-mayor Bill Campbell and soon-to-be felon DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis through her husband's occupations, has worked at and sent her kids to private school Paideia- who is robbing who?
I see the campaign contributions as indications of who is trying to *gain* influence more than who is influenced; check to see what these candidates do and have done, and it gives a much better picture than the list of contributors.
How Teach For America (TFA) or the individuals who've worked in that program suddenly becomes confused as a supporter of charter schools, or a 'takeover' of public schools is beyond me. Altruistic college grads with a long resume in a specific subject put off their careers for tow years, teaching in public schools, bringing that passion for their subject area with them. How is that bad? One of the major problems with education today is the training future teachers get from education programs, which is long on pedagogy but short on expertise- in anything. TFA members may get only short training for the rigors of the classroom, but at least they know their subjects. Atlanta is blessed that Westmoreland (no opposition), English and Esteves not only completed their TFA tour, but are committing themselves during their professional careers to continue to help the district.
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