North Atlanta: New school and new principal

In 2013, there was renewed drama at Buckhead’s public high school.

The school opened in its new campus in August and the school’s price tag drew considerable attention. The new high school is located on the former IBM campus on Northside Parkway and cost nearly $150 million, making it the most expensive public high school ever built in Georgia. The cost associated with the school earned it a write up in the New York Times. There’s also an ROTC rifle range at the school, another item that picked up in reports.

But while everyone not living in Atlanta focuses on the school’s price, people in the metro area were more concerned about the school’s leadership. Principal Howard Taylor hadn’t finished his first year as the school’s principal before announcing he would retire. It was a shocker to many parents, who looked to Taylor for stability following the messy departure of former Principal Mark MyGrant in 2012. The 2012 fiasco involved allegations of institutional racism made by students against teachers and administrators. An investigation released in 2013 found those allegations weren’t supported by the evidence.

Taylor in September announced he would resign, but later decided to stay when Atlanta Public School officials offered to promote him to oversee the entire North Atlanta cluster of schools. The Board of Education, however, would not approve that promotion. Taylor eventually rescinded his resignation and decided to stay at the school.

Sandy Springs development stirs Buckhead concerns

Much public debate in Sandy Springs and Atlanta’s Buckhead community in 2013 concerned a mixed-use development near Chastain Park. Sandy Springs City Council approved the project in July after months of delay and debate.

The debate focused on the project’s potential impact on traffic and the development of dense apartment projects in residential areas. The project will consist of 630 apartment units.

JLB Partners is the developer. The project will be located at the intersection of Roswell Road and Windsor Parkway, near Chastain Park and the city of Sandy Springs will have to realign that intersection, with a combination of impact fees, money moved from other projects and potentially some bond financing. The project will likely have an effect on Buckhead traffic, but there isn’t any planned solution for the nearby intersection of Roswell and West Wieuca roads.

School board election: Brown defeats McDaniel

Buckhead residents looking to unseat Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel succeeded this year. McDaniel was seen as being responsible for an Atlanta Public Schools investigation into allegations of institutional racism at North Atlanta High. The investigation was first revealed in 2012 after the departure of former principal Mark MyGrant and his leadership team.

Several candidates stepped forward to challenge McDaniel in the November elections. Buckhead attorney Cynthia Briscoe Brown, former president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, ultimately defeated McDaniel in the December runoff election.

Meanwhile District 4 Board of Education member Nancy Meister fended off a challenge by challenger Taryn Bowman and was reelected in November.

Jim King steps down

This year was a turning point for Buckhead’s leading neighborhood organization. Jim King, the longtime chairman of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, stepped down after 5 1/2 years as its chairman. Tom Tidwell, who ran for the Atlanta Board of Education, will be his replacement.

King, who also serves as president of the Chastain Park Civic Association, founded the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods along with North Buckhead Civic Association President Gordon Certain. BCN has become one of Buckhead’s most influential groups, drawing civic leaders to its monthly meetings.

West Village Merchants consider a new association

Business owners are exploring the possibility of a West Village Merchants Association that would better represent the interests of the 40-acre block of shops. In October, about 30 people interested in the idea gathered at the Buckhead Theatre. Buckhead Community Improvement District Executive Director Jim Durrett attended, and also discussed the possibility of the West Village area joining the CID. If the merchants decided to form an association and also join the CID, Durrett told them the CID could make $2 million worth of infrastructure improvements to the area, funded by $60,000 in annual self-imposed taxes paid by the business owners.

Atlanta Classical Approved

This year Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education approved the creation of a Buckhead charter school despite Superintendent Erroll Davis’ recommendation that the BOE deny the petition.

Davis recommended denial for Atlanta Classical and all other charter schools because of ongoing legal questions about how APS funds pensions.

The BOE approved the charter for Atlanta Classical Academy in August. The school will use the classical education model, which promotes literacy in western traditions. It will open as a K-8 school in the fall of 2014, provided everything else stays on schedule.