Nancy Meister, District 4 school board member
Nancy Meister

Atlanta School Board Member Nancy Meister apologized to parents at the Jan. 12 Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting for the school system’s tumultuous rezoning process.

Meister called the emails, phone calls and personal letters she received from parents regarding proposals to send their children to another school “heartbreaking.”

“It really was rotten,” Meister said. “I apologize for that … The board had nothing to do with that.”

If the current proposals are adopted, students at E. Rivers Elementary might be zoned to Bolton Academy and some Bolton students might be zoned to Scott Elementary. Another suggestion moves students in the Pine Hills neighborhood to Garden Hills Elementary instead of Sarah Smith Elementary.

School officials have stressed the rezoning maps are a work in progress. The school system is attempting to balance schools that have shrinking enrollment with schools that are overcrowded.

Meister said two new rezoning maps will be posted on the Atlanta Public Schools website Jan. 23. She said Superintendent Erroll Davis and board members discussed the rezoning and are developing a list of 20 priorities and ranking them as either low, medium or high.

The list has not been published yet, but might include such factors as whether or not students could walk to a school in their zone.

Meister said the new maps will be “very different” than the ones parents have seen so far and will include parent feedback.

“There will be another period of time where you can give feedback and at the beginning of March they will give a final recommendation to the superintendent,” Meister said. “He [Davis] may tweak it even more. The final proposal will come to the board in April. There is a lot more time for feedback.”

Meister answered several questions about the enrollment numbers provided by the school system, whether certain schools should be renovated or repurposed and what schools might be built as part of the plan.

In addition, Meister also answered questions about an affidavit signed by parent Cynthia Briscoe Brown that alleges political maneuvering behind the recent selection of the school board chair. Brown is co-president of the North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, but said her letter was filed as an individual and not on behalf of her group.

In a 5-4 vote Jan. 9, the board selected Reuben McDaniel to replace Brenda Muhammad as school board chair. At that same meeting, the board referred Brown’s affidavit to its ethics commission.

Brown’s affidavit alleges that McDaniel ran for school board chairman because Davis said he would not sign his contract extension if Muhammad remained as chair of the board.

Brown’s affidavit claims that McDaniel told her Muhammad regularly met with public school vendors, makes recommendations about vendors to Davis, and held up approving contracts. Brown said in a follow up conversation with Davis, the superintendent said he had not told McDaniel anything regarding the board chairmanship.

Davis declined to comment through school spokesman Keith Bromery. Bromery also said McDaniel declined to comment. Attempts to reach Muhammad on Jan. 13 were unsuccessful.

Brown said the conflicting accounts described in her affidavit concerned her. “I have three people here who may or may not have committed ethical violations,” Brown said.

Meister told BCN members she supported Muhammad because she wanted a continuity of leadership. She said the close vote is not a sign that the board is falling back into the conflicts that threatened its accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges in Schools.

Council of Neighborhood Chairman Jim King and others said they were concerned by the allegations in the affidavit.

“It has to be evaluated,” King said. “If you read it, it’s a little disconcerting.”

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com