As an Atlanta Public Schools parent, I care about the direction of the district — not just for my own children, but for all children in Atlanta. I am aware that the Board of Education will be making major decisions for the future of the children in our district in the coming months including a strategic plan and the selection of a new superintendent. This plan will set the policy tone for the district for the next five years. Based on the drafts the board is sharing, I’m concerned about the lack of accountability for schools that aren’t serving students well.
You may ask why a Buckhead parent cares about this. You may say, “Your schools are good.” Yes, that is true, but when any school is failing it impacts not just the student, but the community of which it is a part. More importantly, a failing school impacts the potential of thousands of young individuals who deserve the same quality of education as their counterparts who happen to live in “better” neighborhoods. When APS has a number of failing schools, the impact is felt in every Atlanta neighborhood. Failing schools deter businesses from setting up shop and moving employees to our neighborhoods, meaning fewer opportunities for Atlantans. I want my children to grow up in a better Atlanta – a more equitable Atlanta. And that starts in schools.
The board would never let schools in the northern cluster fail year after year, yet it continues to let it happen in the neighborhoods of the southwest and southeast. To blame disinterest or disengagement is making excuses. As a district that just passed “equity policy,” we should call this what it is: inequity between rich and poor; inequity between the haves and the have-nots.
The strategic plan needs to ensure that there are clear measurements and clear actions to address our failing schools when the supports that are put in place are not working. If we pass something that is weak and noncommittal, we will continue to allow a large portion of Atlanta children to be denied not just an education, but also opportunities. We need a clear plan for accountability and action on a specific timeline. Families need to know that if the school their children are attending is not making the grade that there is a timeline to address it with urgency.
The difference between Buckhead and the neighborhoods in southwest and southeast Atlanta isn’t a difference in what parents want for their students; it’s a difference in how responsive the board is willing to be to the demands of parents. And that is true inequity. We all want to see swift action to get the school back on track.
I truly hope the board understands the impact of this plan and includes clear accountability and a specific timeline for action in the plan. I hope my board members and at-large board member support these items. When you allow schools to fail, it is the children and the future of Atlanta that you are failing.
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