Tuesday, April 10, 2012

School board member: "There were no deals cut"

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 2:58 PM

  • APS file photo

APS is presenting its final rezoning recommendations to the Atlanta Board of Education as we speak, which precedes the 6 p.m. community meeting and the 7 p.m. legislative meetings tonight, wherein there will be a final vote on the plan. You should follow the live blog by @apsupdate here if you're intrigued with the presentation being made at the committee meeting.

Before the meeting, though, we reached out to school board member Nancy Meister, because the unveiling of the final plan set off an angry reaction in her Buckhead district.

Parents at Sarah Smith Elementary are seething that they were informed so late in the process that about 100 to 120 students from Garden Hills Elementary would be transferred to their school. They say this will lead to a capacity problem at Sarah Smith if, as they suspect, more people will move into the affected neighborhood (Pine Hills) to get into a "good" school. As one parent noted to me:

This is all going down very last minute, without proper sharing of information, without proper vetting it appears, without proper notification of the communities being impacted. Sarah Smith PTA has asked for the decision to be reversed, or has also requested that the decision be delayed until proper vetting has taken place.

Beyond that, the District 4 school board member, Nancy Meister, a Garden Hills realtor, has had to answer allegations that she "cut a deal" with Superintendent Davis that would ultimately raise real estate prices in that neighborhood.

Meister, who had just finished responding to a parent's email accusing her of this, angrily denied this to CL:

"There were no deals cut. I take great offensive to that comment," Meister said. "I've lived here 18 years, and this is not something I would do. I take great pride in operating with integrity, and I take offense to those suggestions."

Meister stressed that Buckhead got off much easier than other districts in terms of the disruption to communities. She said Garden Hills, operating at 108 percent capacity, needed this to happen. (Even though, she notes, this is only a temporary solution to the overcrowding problem. And some Smith parents say the "over capacity" definition is a shell game, wherein similar student-teacher ratios are classified as out-of-wack or just fine, depending on the school.) Meister says that she spoke to the demographers yesterday about the concerns brought up by the Sarah Smith PTA, and that she is comfortable with the plan as presented. (She says she's been in contact with Smith leadership to hear the latest concerns.) "It's a tough process," she said, "and this is just beginning of what we need to do to alleviate Garden Hills overcrowding. Not everyone will be happy."

Update: See jump.

From the APS live blog I linked to higher in the post, here is Meister addressing the capacity issue at the meeting:

Meister: Over the break the Pine Hills neighborhood was added to the proposal and as I've worked with Kavi I've been assured that Smith will not have any capacity issues, can you confirm this?

Smith: We've tested and retested this issue. The Smith's planning capacity is 1,320 based on a class size of 22. We are currently staffing at 22 students in KK, 25 students in 1 to 3 Grades, and 28 students in grades 4 and 5. Based on these class sizes, we believe that Smith will not have any capacity issues.

Davis: There is a difference between planning capacity and actual capacity. The operating ratios are much higher than 1:22, in grades 4 & 5 in fact they are 1;30. Multiplied by 60 classrooms you're talking about the difference of 480 students you could accomodate with our present operating ratios. The PEAK enrollment with Smith would be 1387 with the addition of Pine Hills. That would happen in 2015-2016 and it goes down from there.

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