APS Releases Potential School Redistricting Options

Nov 30 2011

APS has released the demographers' proposed solutions to school overcrowding / underenrollment issues.  Mary Lin will be directly affected. 

Go here to review the draft option summaries and maps (which show the proposed school boundaries of the four options).

Here is a summary that was circulated on the Candler Park Parents list.

Option 1 gives a 176-seat expansion to Mary Lin but cuts out the western part of Inman Park from Mary Lin.  It keeps Mary Lin otherwise together and keeps Morningside at Inman and Grady.  Grady keeps the west of the connector area plus a small additional bit there but loses the Old Fourth Ward and some of Inman Park.

Option 2 gives a 176-seat expansion to Mary Lin and pairs Mary Lin with Hope-Hill for PK-2 and 3-5, which keeps Inman Park with Mary Lin.  It sends Morningside kids off to the new middle school but returns them to Grady.  Inman ends up with a smaller district, geographically, because it loses the kids on the west side of the connector (as well as the M'side kids), while gaining the Old Fourth Ward.

Option 3 gives a 176-seat expansion to Mary Lin and keeps Mary Lin at its current configuration, neighborhood-wise.  It's essentially the same as option 2 for middle, except there's an additional little triangle of Va-Hi/M'side that also goes to the new middle school.  BUT then Grady doesn't get those kids back for high school AND takes in some additional kids from west of the connector.

Option 4 pairs Mary Lin with the north Kirkwood Toomer kids for PK-2 and 3-5.  For middle, it's option 2 (lose the M'side kids and west of the connector kids) plus gaining the north Kirkwood kids.  For high school, it's exactly the same kids as middle school.  BUT with this, we get no expansion at Mary Lin.

As a reminder, please plan to attend the meeting tomorrow night.

2011 Demographic-Capacity Study Community Meeting

Thursday, December 1, 2011
6:30 - 8:00 pm

Parkside Elementary
685 Mercer St, SE
Atlanta, GA 30312

Broken or Missing Water Meter Cover?

Nov 24 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, neighbors! While walking around the 'hood with family today, we noticed a very dangerous foot-deep hole in the ground, thanks to a missing water meter cover. Just looking for an ankle to break!

And that reminded me of a recent article in the AJC about the dangers and costs associated with missing or broken water meter covers.

If you have a broken or missing water meter cover in front of your house, or know of one in the neighborhood, it's easy to get it fixed. Here's how:

Afternoon Car Break-in at Candler Park

Nov 23 2011

From a neighbor, as reported to the candler park parents email list. Be careful everyone!

My car was broken into around 2:30 yesterday afternoon at Candler Park. I had taken my daughter to the playground, and left my purse under some bags of groceries, out of sight (or so I thought). No one heard or saw anything, the alarm never went off. They were in and out, and had charged some things at Metro PCS by the time I discovered the break in.

Meetings concerning local APS schools

Nov 20 2011
  • Mon, 11/21, (6:30 social, 7p start) APS Board member will be at the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization meeting at Old Stone Church (470 Candler Park Drive). CP neighbors go get some face time with your rep.
     
  • Tue, 11/29, (7-8:30p) CINS Atlanta will host an evening with Superintendent Davis at Inman Middle School. Great chance to hear his hopes for APS.
     
  • Thu, 12/1, (6-8p) SRT3 Demographer's Report/Community Meeting will be held at Parkside Elementary in Grant Park. Learn what changes may be in the works for next year.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Nov 19 2011

By Will Shevlin, Candler Park Resident

Candler Park is faced with the potential redistricting of three schools:  Mary Lin (unlikely), Inman, and Grady.  While many parents (and some non-parents) are energized about this issue, much of the neighborhood is not.  But this potential change is important to all of us.  Our representative to the Atlanta Board of Education, Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, will be at the CPNO meeting on Monday, November 21 at The Old Stone Church (470 Candler Park Drive).  Please consider attending to learn more about this issue and share your views.
 
If APS schools were uniform in their students’ success, redistricting would merely be an inconvenience.  We would discover new friends, roads, routines, and bus stops.  However, the schools to which we may be redistricted to (Coan Middle School and Jackson High School) do not perform as highly on standardized tests as our current schools. 

Standardized testing has become a bad word but it is currently the only objective criteria we have to compare one school's success against another.  The following independent school ratings come from schooldigger.com.  The disparity between CRCT test scores and the rankings are large enough that nuances concerning either school would not cover the delta in the rankings.  While not perfect, it is all we have.
 
School Digger gives the following ratings to Inman and Coan Middle schools. 

  • Inman is rated 46th out of 479 middle schools in the state.
     
  • Coan is rated 422nd out of 479 middle schools in the state.

 

The following links will provide more information about Inman:
http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/Domain/1740

http://www.inmanmiddleschool.org/

 
The following link will provide additional information about Coan:
http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/Page/7867

 
School Digger gives the following ratings to Grady and Jackson:

  • Grady is rated 135th out of 399 high schools in the state.
     
  • Jackson is rated 377th out of 399 high schools in the state.

The focus group led by the consultants hired by APS came up with statements like the ones below.  (The full demographer report can be found here.)

"While cohesive neighborhoods are strengths, they can also be a weakness because residents of different neighborhoods have little contact with each other. Parental perceptions of schools located in areas they are not familiar with may be inaccurate."

“Fear of change” is prevalent in some areas. Perceptions of resulting property value losses from neighborhoods being zoned to poorer performing schools will cause opposition among many residents, even households without children in APS."

Perhaps we should throw out the test scores that the federal government determined were a good way to assess the success of the nation’s schools.  I disagree: While some aspects of No Child Left Behind may be flawed, every industry and management team seeks to objectively measure their successes and failures.  Currently the only objective criteria any homeowner has in determining the value of local schools are test scores.
 
But for the sake of argument, let’s dismiss these test scores as only a perception.  The reason we don’t want to go to another school is because we are unfamiliar with all that another school has to offer.  We just don’t get out enough, and these distant, unfamiliar landscapes are unknown to us.  We are afraid of change and have a poor perception of these distant lands.  What other data points do we have that would help determine if these are inaccurate perceptions and a myopic view of our fair city?
 
Perhaps we could look at parent and student demand for schools in the city.  Typically, markets act in a rational manner over the long haul.  Home purchasing is a long-term decision that requires more thought than should I buy or sell pork bellies on a Thursday afternoon.  After an examination of the enrollment of schools and test scores, I discovered a high correlation between test scores and the demand placed on the capacity of the school.  The market for public education in the city of Atlanta seems to place higher capacity demands on performing schools over non-performing schools.  
 
Again we seek additional data points.  Perhaps people purchased homes in their neighborhoods and cocooned into their local areas and also had poor perception of other options.  The overcrowding and under enrolled correlation is a result of a collective unfamiliarity and poor perceptions.  What other data points do we have to assess this?  How do we look to the outside world to help us solve this problem?
 
Who would have the best familiarity of school options and have the most accurate perception of school choice?  Currently, 25% of the students at Grady High School are from out of zone (based on the demographers’ report).  These students are former magnet students that were able to remain at Grady after the magnet program was dissolved and transfer students that select Grady over their zoned schools.   Once the magnet program was discontinued one would expect that some of these students would venture back to their neighborhood friends and schools.  Surely it would be more convenient to stay closer to home and leverage the APS transportation.  However, these students with the best ability to assess the differences in schools – and the opportunity to choose among them – have opted to remain at Grady.  In addition, students that Grady has allowed to transfer in from other zones chose Grady over their school and have not drifted back to their neighborhood schools.  I don’t know if Grady continues to allow transfers but there is not an outflow of students from Grady.  There is an inflow from parents and students with arguably have the best information upon which to make a decision.
 
In addition to the students allowed to transfer and the former magnet students, there is a third group of students that change zones.  They typically do not self identify because this is the group that is fraudulently transferring from one school to another by way of fabricated leases and fake utility bills.  At multiple meetings at Inman and Grady, Chantal Mullins has stated that the problem is very hard to solve and that parents are very inventive in their fraud to obtain a spot in one of the overcrowded schools.  She also shared that they don’t have the resources to tackle the issue.  Inman has aggressively pursued the issue on its own without APS support for several years.  Over the same number of years enrollment has decreased.  It is unknown the percentage to which this exercise has reduced the student population.  Regardless how many students fall into this category, parents are willing to commit fraud to place their children in performing schools.  These again would be parents who live in one zone and choose another zone for their children.  What is the cause of their inability to see through their inaccurate poor perception?  By definition this group lives close to a school and still choose another.
 
The fourth group is APS teachers have the ability to enroll their students in the schools in which they teach.  Sounds like a good idea.  I think teachers close to their kids have easier commutes and it can only positively impact my children’s educations.  However, exceptions have also been made for APS teachers and central office employees to transfer to overcrowded performing schools.  It would be very interesting if APS published a current accounting of the pattern of these transfers across the system.  These transfer patterns would provide another method of assessing the accuracy of school perception.  These educators perhaps would be in the very best place to assess school performance.  It is their business and they have a firsthand account of school performance.  Perhaps they also get out a little more than we do and visit schools across the district.   It would be interesting to know if anyone has an accounting of these transfers and if they are still allowed to occur?  Will grandfathering of transfer students be treated differently that students that experience a zone change?
 
Let’s also examine our fear of the drop in property values due to potentially poorer schools.  The demographers have stated that in open meetings that people do not purchase homes based on schools.  I found this odd and was surprised by the statement but surely he should know more than myself.  I looked for outside data points to inform my opinion.  I found several studies that were published by professors from UCLA, Dartmouth, and Clemson that found that school performance and home prices were highly correlated.  I also found a study by the Rand Corporation (arguably the number one research organization in the world).  Rand found that a 1 percent higher average reading or math score in Chicago and Massachusetts was associated with a 1 percent higher property value.  I doubt that Atlanta would be any different.
 
The reality is many parents and homeowners believe that our current schools are in fact better than the alternatives.  While perhaps not all but probably more than not considered schools in their home location.  Some even devoted monthly income to a higher mortgage payment and a smaller home in order to attend Mary Lin, Inman, and Grady.  Change is always hard.  But you make change infinitely hard by sugar-coating it.  No one has produced an objective measure that changes the current perceptions of homeowners, transfer students, or former magnet students.
 
Candler Park believes that we have a better deal now than any others that have been suggested.  We want to keep our current option.  The APS school board has the power to keep or change our current deal.  Changes will negatively impact some neighborhoods and positively impact others.   Our APS school board representative will be at CPNO on Monday.  Please come and let her know how you feel about the options.  Right now it is only the unknown to which we have to fear.  However, we do know that our neighborhood finds itself on the edge of the districts that are under enrolled and overcrowded.  We will begin to find out the alternatives that will be considered by the school board on December 1st.  We may not be able to change the decision but we sure let APS know how feel about the options. 

I implore you to come share your thoughts with Cecily Harsch-Kinnane at the CPNO meeting at the E Church (470 Candler Park Drive) on Monday November 21st. Ms. Harsch-Kinnane is at the top of the agenda. There is also a meeting at Parkside Elementary on December 1st at 6:30 PM.  Our best chance at influencing these decisions is participation from every homeowner and parent in the neighborhood.  We are a neighborhood that stopped the road and may very well need that level of participation again to influence the decisions at hand. 

Please attend the meetings and make your voice known.

CPNO Annual Meeting This Monday, November 21 at 6:30pm

Nov 17 2011

The Candler Park Neighborhood Organization monthly meeting is this Monday, November 21st. We'll start with socializing (wine, beer, and snacks) at 6:30 pm and move on to general business at 7 pm.

This is a special meeting for several reasons. First, our bylaws call this an 'annual meeting,' during which we elect a new board. Secondly, we have visitors from both the Atlanta Board of Education and Park Pride coming to talk about events of great importance to the neighborhood.

Reminder, we have child care available!

On the agenda this month:

  • Atlanta Board of Education member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane
  • Park Pride Director of Park Visioning Walt Ray
  • Elections for CPNO board positions
  • An update on our proposed events process
  • Introduction of the grant proposal for 2012 Movie Night series in Candler Park

Radial Cafe will provide refreshments at this month's membership meeting. Thank you to Radial for helping out the neighborhood!


Where: First Existentialist Congregation (470 Candler Park Drive) -- Across from the golf course

When: November 21st at 6:30 pm (this Monday)

Significant Votes

There is one zoning vote this month: an application for a variance at 556 Page Avenue.

Candler Park Dog Park? Committee Exploring Options

Nov 16 2011

By Gordon Rose and Jimmy Bligh

Last January, the CPNO hosted a special meeting at Manuel’s Tavern to survey ideas and goals for the organization.  At this meeting, the number one suggestion for projects in and around the park was the construction of an off leash fenced dog park. Currently, options to let dogs run off-leash are very limited. Decatur has several dog parks, but these parks are restricted to Decatur residents. The city of Atlanta only has two sanctioned dog parks (in Piedmont and South Bend). The reality is that people do let their dogs run off-leash in the park. Many residents have expressed concern over loose dogs in the park and a desire to have a place where dogs and their owners could legally play together off leash.  As a result of that meeting, the CPNO Board asked for volunteers to form a Dog Park Committee to investigate the process for constructing a dog park and also to create a proposal for a dog park to be presented to the neighborhood upon the proposal’s completion.  

The city of Atlanta has published guidelines for the creation of an off leash dog park (these guidelines can be found in a link from the CPNO website).  Consistent with the guidelines, residents with an interest in creating a dog park began meeting last Spring. The current active members of the Dog Park Committee are Gordon Rose (CP resident), Jimmy Bligh (CP resident), Bonnie Palter (CP resident), Mellissa Pressman (LC resident), and Karen Goeckel (IP resident); but additional volunteers are welcome.  The Committee’s first goal  was to identify potential sites for the dog park  specifically in underutilized areas of the park which fit the requirements of the Guidelines. 

An initial proposed site (the “IPS”) was selected by the Committee after considering the entirety of the non-golf park area of the park. The IPS was selected based on a observation/usage study undertaken by committee members who monitored the use of that area over a period of months. The IPS abuts McClendon and is to the left of the paved pathway running from McClendon to the parking lot.  Specifically, the IPS begins at the base of the slope to the McClendon sidewalk, thus below sidewalk level, runs across the flat area and down into the gulley but would stop before the top off the gulley on the driveway side of the gulley. The fence would run from McClendon down the side of the gulley and also on the opposite path-side until approximately 75 feet above the area where the enclosures/barbecue pits are located.  The fence would be designed to be as open as possible while still safely enclosing the dogs and would also eventually be obscured by landscaping. A separate small dog enclosure, as recommended by the Guidelines, in the same area or on the other side of the pathway has also been envisioned. The amount of land used for the dog park is approximately 1% of the total park area and is currently not being utilized by residents.  A link to a Google map showing the proposed sites can be found at the CPNO site. A waterline will be run down to the final site. The utilization of the IPS site selected by the committee should make that access-way to the park safer, eliminate the eyesore, and create a clean, safe environment in the neighborhood where well behaved canines can exercise and play without endangering people, property, or other wildlife.  

The Committee began collecting signatures of support for the concept of a dog park during this year’s Fall Fest and on-line (see link to Candler Park Dog Park petition on the CPNO site).  The petition is currently over 800 signatures in support of the project. The Committee is actively soliciting feedback and ideas as we build an initial proposal for the dog park. The next steps will be to complete the site(s) layout and present the proposal(s) to the CPNO for a vote of support. If the neighborhood wants us to proceed, we will solicit and collect letters of support from the NPU and neighboring civic organizations,  cost out the project and then present the proposal to the Department of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs).  If all of the above meets with approval the proposal will eventually be presented to the City Council for approval.  

Candler Park is currently a destination for families and individuals utilizing the existing facilities to play basketball, tennis, swim, golf, play soccer, Frisbee, and kickball players,  to name just a few of the activities provided by our park.  The sizable group of "people with dogs" is currently not being served by the park. Creating a city sanctioned off leash dog park will make the park safer for people trying to enjoy their own park experience as well as make it cleaner, and create a  new experience for dog owners.  Candler Park has the acreage and parking to support a dog park.  The CPNO and the Dog Park Committee welcome all input and anyone who would like to take part in the process to attend either the CPNO monthly meetings or any Committee meeting which will be posted on the CPNO website when scheduled.

November Messenger

Nov 16 2011

Sure, there are shopping lists to make and turkeys to reserve and family gatherings to anticipate and houses to clean and children to photograph and...and...and...the holiday season is upon us and things are getting crazy. But set it all aside and curl up in a cozy chair and get reading. The November Messenger is here!

Cabbagetown Stacks Lofts & Artists Tour December 2 - 3

Nov 11 2011

From Virginia Harris:

Your neighbors in Cabbagetown would like to invite you to the Fifth Annual Stacks Lofts & Artists Tour at the Fulton Bag & Cotton Mill. Dates are December 2 & 3, 2011.  On Saturday, December 3rd, there will be a History Tour of the complex.  Please visit www.thestackslofttour.com for additional information.

APS Demographers Meeting on December 1 at Parkside Elementary

Nov 11 2011

The Jackson High Conversation with Superintendent Davis has been moved to Dec. 15 and the SRT3 Community Meeting with Demographer's Data will be December 1 from 6-8p at Parkside Elementary in Grant Park. More information is available at 30307schools.org.

The demographer's report and focus group meeting notes can be found HERE.