Reide Onley, the newly-elected president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools

North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools’ new president said the group will not take sides in a dispute about turning Sutton Middle School into a sixth grade academy.

NAPPS members elected Reide Onley during a March 28 meeting at Morris Brandon Primary School. Onley replaces outgoing co-presidents Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Jim Brown, who have held the job for the last three years.

The organization was formed in 1975 and advocates for schools in the Buckhead cluster.

“NAPPS wants to facilitate cooperation and discussion on the middle schools issue, where people can share their concerns and listen to each other,” Cynthia Briscoe Brown told NAPPS members before she turned the office over to Onley.

Onley, who is parent at Sutton Middle, said the organization will educate residents and mediate discussions but won’t take an official position on whether North Atlanta would be better off with two smaller middle schools or one larger one with a sixth grade academy.

“We don’t want divisiveness, neighbors arguing with each other,” Onley said. “We want people to be informed.”

While NAPPS will play a more conciliatory role in the dispute between its members, the group was more than willing to go to bat for the entire cluster during Atlanta’s contentious school rezoning process.

Cynthia Briscoe Brown and NAPPS were at the front of the community’s battles with Atlanta Public Schools over redistricting schools in the North Atlanta. At every meeting with the school system’s demographers, Brown was always among the first people in the audience taking the microphone during public comments. Brown grilled APS officials over proposed changes to attendance maps. The Board of Education will vote on the maps April 10, and the current proposal gives the North Atlanta cluster everything parents wanted.

Well, almost. While the current proposal suggested by Superintendent Erroll Davis keeps boundary lines intact, it suggests turning Sutton Middle School into a sixth grade academy that would feed into a new middle school at the current North Atlanta High School campus. North Atlanta High will move to the former IBM campus on North Atlanta Parkway.

Some of Buckhead parents now say that the sixth grade academy concept didn’t win universal support before it became part of Davis’ proposal. A new group has formed, called Meetinthemiddleaps.com, asking school officials to delay making a final decision on the sixth grade academy.

The sixth grade academy wouldn’t go into effect until the school finishes rebuilding E. Rivers Elementary. E. Rivers will be completely rebuilt starting in 2013 and the current Sutton site will need to house E. Rivers students for 18 months during that time.

District 4 school board member Nancy Meister attended the meeting at Morris Brandon but said she isn’t taking sides in the sixth grade academy debate. She told NAPPS members that she would prefer to approve the final maps on a cluster-by-cluster basis when the board considers them on April 10, but the board may be asked to approve the maps all at once.

She said whatever happens with the middle school, the cluster will be fine.

“There is a little bit of divisiveness going on now and I hope we can get through that and move forward,” she said.