From Mary Lin task force reps Lori Van Rossem and Jeff Shaw:
Inman Task Force Report
September 18, 2012
Superintendent Erroll Davis attended the meeting to clarify what he is looking for from the task force. He started by stating that Inman middle school is not large enough to hold grades 6-8 for the entire Grady cluster population, which he and APS knew was left unresolved from last year’s redistricting process. He therefore had asked school board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane to help organize the Inman task force to address this unresolved issue.
Mr. Davis said that he had originally had three questions that he wanted the task force to address, but that the first question was already answered. The first question was whether the Inman building could hold two grades of the entire Grady cluster middle school population, and the answer to that question is yes, that he and APS believe that Inman can hold two grades through a reasonable planning horizon, which he explained was through approximately the year 2020-21. He did acknowledge that Inman could become tight, or close to full capacity within 7-8 years, based on its planning capacity of 875 students, but that he was confident that Inman would be fine holding two grades for at least 7-8 years.
That leaves two unresolved questions in Mr. Davis’ mind on which he would like input from the task force. These two questions are:
1. Whether there should be a 6th grade or an 8th grade academy. Mr. Davis stated that he has decided to move forward with a single grade academy (much like he has done in the North Atlanta cluster), and would like input from the task force on whether this should be a 6th grade or an 8th grade academy. He would also like input from the task force on what the academy should look like, including issues such as whether it should be a separate stand-alone school with its own principal, or an annex; as well as guidance on other areas of concern such as parental involvement, transportation, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
2. Where the 6th or 8th grade academy should be located. Mr. Davis noted that APS has two properties available, the Howard building and the old Walden middle school, but noted that both of these might be costly to renovate, and did not necessarily limit the task force to considering only these two sites. Mr. Davis indicated that approximately $25 to $30 million from SPOST IV might be available for such a project, and seemed open to the possibility of acquiring or purchasing land if necessary.
Mr. Davis asked the task force to focus on these 2 questions. He stated that he does not need consensus or a vote. In answering a question from a taskforce member, he stated that the educational program will not change for either the 6th grade or 8th grade. Another task force member asked whether his decision would be vetted by the Board and he stated that depending on what he decides, the decision could go before the BoE for a vote, but not necessarily.
Mr. Davis did comment that the single grade academy approach lends itself to greater flexibility in the future, such that a single grade school good be converted to a second middle school (for grades 6-8), or to an 8-9 school (grades 8-9) which could help address over-crowding at Grady HS should that be necessary in the future. He said that such possible conversions or changes could be addressed in 5 to 7 years when enrollment numbers are clearer. He further commented that if the 6th or 8th grade academy were more likely to evolve into 2 middle schools in the future, then it should be sited further away from Inman; but if it were more likely to evolve into an 8-9 school or something to address potential over-crowding at Grady, then it should be located closer to Grady.
The Superintendent then turned the meeting over to James Wilson, an education consultant and facilitator. Mr. Wilson’s credentials are posted on the APS website (the link is available at the end of this report).
Mr. Wilson reiterated the Superintendent’s 2 questions and requested comments from Inman Principal Paula Herrema. She stated that a 6 Academy could work because the sixth grade is already academically separated and for various reasons it feels more doable. She also stated that they are looking for ways to expand learning for the 8th grade and that 8th grade leans toward high school. She also stated that APS sports start in 7th grade, and are for grades 7-8. Mr. Wilson stated that the goal in middle school is to keep the grades separated and therefore an Academy model makes sense. In responding to a taskforce question about the 52% graduation rate for APS high schools, Mr. Wilson stated that the way to change that was to drill down to the individual classroom and in teaming, but that based on his experience the building configuration or size of grade levels did not affect academic performance.
The Lin representatives stated that a 6th academy makes more sense, because it would create the least amount of change for the students and teachers, because it is more common and is already being done in other school districts, since the 6th graders at Inman are already academically separated, and because 6th graders can’t play sports (middle school sports are for grades 7-8). The Lin representatives also noted that if the 6 Academy were built and sited intelligently, it could provide the most flexibility to address potential overcrowding at Grady because the 6 Academy could become a 6/7 Academy and Inman could become a 8/9 Academy, or whatever configuration becomes needed in the future.
The taskforce went on to ask questions similar to the ones already posed to APS.
Mr. Wilson adjourned the meeting reiterating the 2 questions from the Superintendent and charging the taskforce members to seek input from their communities on these issues.
The full minutes of all task force meetings and handouts are posted on the APS website at http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/Page/29002.
Finally, we are asking for your comments and thoughts regarding the Superintendent’s charge. What configuration would give us the most flexibility for the future? And where should it be located? To the extent possible, our goal is that whatever solution the Lin Community supports, this solution will put an end to conversation about redistricting Lin out of the Grady Cluster and 2 middle school option for at least the next 7 to 10 years.
You can email both Jeff Shaw and Lori van Rossem at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will take your comments to the taskforce for consideration.