Atlanta Public Schools

Eboni Lemon / WABE

Wednesday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools students are back in school this week, and with them, a brand new police force. Most of the nearly 70 officers have bachelor’s degrees. APS went out of its way to recruit officers with above-average educational backgrounds.

APS Police Chief Ronald Applin said they were looking for people with degrees.

"You know, not to say that we're better,” Applin said. "We can be more selective. We're a smaller agency, but we're also focusing on a different segment of the population."

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

When students in the Atlanta Public Schools head back to class Wednesday, some will see big changes. Some schools will have new science and math programs, others will offer services like on-campus health clinics and tutoring. The changes are part of an ambitious "turnaround" plan aimed at boosting achievement in the district’s lowest-performing schools.

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Stabilizing Atlanta neighborhoods will play a key role in turning some schools around, according to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Carstarphen spoke to reporters at a media roundtable. She touted the district's school turnaround plan, which targets the district's lowest-performing schools. The plan includes merging some schools, closing others and offering wrap-around services to families, like community health clinics on school campuses. 

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

In response to unsafe lead levels in the water supply in Flint, Michigan, the Atlanta Public Schools decided to test its water sources for lead. The district has received about half the results. So far, most sources have tested within acceptable levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sources with lead levels above the federal limit are taken out of commission.

“We immediately move that area from any kind of public consumption,” said Pat St. Claire, Atlanta Public Schools' executive director of communications.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Tests have found that more than half of Atlanta Public Schools buildings had elevated levels of lead in drinking water, with some as high as 15 times the federal limit for water systems.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained the test results under Georgia's open records law, reports that 30 Atlanta schools and other buildings have been tested so far.

Atlanta Public Schools Police Chief Ronald Applin stands in front of officers in the newly formed Atlanta Public Schools Police Department.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools now has its own police force. A new chief of police and 67 officers were sworn in Thursday night at the Center for Learning & Leadership. 

These new officers will act as the school district's school resource officers and replace members of the Atlanta Police Department in the city's middle and high schools starting July 1. 

APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said these are sworn police officers, but they'll also teach and counsel students.

The Atlanta Public School system said it’s investigating a tip that 30 Glock handguns were stolen from the trunk of a district vehicle. APS officials said a caller left the anonymous tip on the district’s ethics hotline last week. APS said it has found no evidence so far to support the claim.

The district is preparing to launch its own police force next month. It purchased 90 firearms for that purpose, all of which the district says are accounted for.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

During the 2014-15 school year, Atlanta Public Schools discovered several cases of grade-tampering at a handful of high schools. At the Carver School of Technology, students who'd been taught mostly by substitute teachers didn't get any grades at the end of the semester. Principal Josie Love told her staff to give all the students a grade of 85 with the chance to earn extra credit.

Courtesy of East Lake Foundation

Atlanta Public Schools could lose control of more than 40 percent of its schools if voters approve a plan in November to let the state take over the ones it deems as “failing.” It could also lose money. The local revenue used to run the schools would go to the state instead of the district.

Eboni Lemon

Tuesday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

all gender restroom sign
Associated Press

Anthony Walden was one of dozens of frustrated Fannin County, Georgia, residents that marched from a church to a school board meeting Thursday to call on officials to defy the federal government, and block transgender students from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

A letter from the White House, made public a few hours later, only furthered Walden’s frustration.

The Georgia Department of Education has released its College and Career Ready Performance Index scores, which are score cards for Georgia schools.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said she's smiling since the scores were released. Of the 27 low performing APS schools, seven have improved enough to be removed from Gov. Nathan Deal's proposed Opportunity School District list. Schools on the list could be at risk of a state takeover after November.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

 The Atlanta Public School system's turnaround strategy is underway, and it involves job cuts.

On Monday night, the Atlanta Board of Education unanimously approved a plan that calls for cutting nearly 500 positions.

"We're continuing our goal to right-size the central office by spending less money on central administration and pushing those funds out to the schools," said Pamela Hall, who is head of human resources for the school system.

Teachers have opposed the plan since it was announced.

Boys’ High was one of Atlanta’s first public high schools.

It closed almost 70 years ago, in 1947, and became Grady High School. But the students who attended Boys’ High never forgot it, even as some approach a hundred years old.

The alumni gathered recently for a reunion, including all of the classes that are left. The earliest graduating year among the more than hundred men who came out was 1935. The last group to walk the campus of Boys' High finished in 1949, after two years at Grady.

Dboybaker / www.flickr.com/demietrich

Feeling safe in school may seem like a basic civil right. But plenty of students ─ especially those of certain faiths and cultures ─ are often harassed and bullied in American schools. There are no federal laws to protect them, and state laws vary.

Often, the attacks don’t stop at the end of the school day.

The Internet has made it easier for "cyberbullies" to work around the clock. Cyberbullying is defined as using electronic communication to bully someone, often by sending intimidating or threatening messages. 

Atlanta Public Schools Headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. on July 7, 2015.
Stephanie M. Lennox / WABE

Part of the Atlanta Public Schools' new turnaround plan involves closing some schools and merging others. The school board approved the plan in anticipation of a November ballot measure that would let the state intervene in under-performing schools. But under APS' plan, the newly-merged schools need new names.

That might sound like a simple process, but the school board has naming policies in place.  

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

 

In November, voters will decide whether the state should be able to take over underperforming schools. However, officials with the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) aren’t waiting for the vote.

The board of education approved a "school turnaround" plan last month, but some parents at a school board meeting Monday night said the district has ignored their concerns.  

One of Georgia's largest school systems plans to end its school security contract with the Atlanta Police Department.

Atlanta Public Schools is moving ahead with the plan despite warnings from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed that the move could have "catastrophic consequences" for children.

The school system is taking steps to form its own police force and replace the city police officers currently patrolling schools with officers directly accountable to the district.

Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in the WABE studios.
Jason Parker / WABE

In November, Georgia voters will be asked whether the state should be authorized to take over schools it deems "chronically failing."

If the measure passes, 26 Atlanta public schools could qualify for a takeover. APS’ plan to save those schools looks outside the district.

The Atlanta Public School system is implementing a strategy to increase student achievement dramatically and to transform its lowest-performing schools.

The newspaper staff at Atlanta's Grady High School is calling for the removal of their school's name.

News outlets report that an editorial published last week in Grady's student newspaper called Henry Woodfin Grady a "white supremacist" and suggested alternative names, including Ida B. Wells, John Lewis, Andrew Young or Jimmy Carter.

The editorial says Grady, an editor of and part owner of the Atlanta Constitution, promoted his vision of the New South, a vision that depended on maintaining white supremacy.

Gary Lieberman / WABE

Stephanie Johnson, principal of Maynard Jackson High School, has been named the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GAASP) "Principal of the Year." 

Johnson has been principal of Maynard Jackson for four years and is the first Atlanta Public Schools principal to win the award. In September, she will represent Georgia for the National School Principal of the Year award.

Elly Yu / WABE

The city of Atlanta and Atlanta Public Schools have reached an agreement over money owed to the school district. 

“We need funds and resources right here and right now, and this deal does that,” said Courtney English, chair of the Atlanta Board of Education.

In a deal announced Friday, the city will now pay $73.5 million in payments to the district through 2030 -- about half of what it was supposed to pay in a previous agreement.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Next fall, Georgia voters will be asked whether the state should be authorized to take over schools it deems "chronically failing."

If the measure passes, 26 Atlanta public schools, or 60 percent, could qualify for a takeover. APS’s plan to save those schools looks outside the district.

  

The city of Atlanta recently made a $9.1 million payment to the Atlanta Public Schools.  It's part of an effort to resolve a long-running battle between the city and APS over how, when – and how much – the city will repay APS for school tax money Atlanta used to build the BeltLine.

Gabbie Watts / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

At the beginning of this school year, Atlanta Public Schools reduced its number of music teachers by a third. There are now about 40 music teachers in the district.

Even with fewer teachers, music education inside Atlanta's schools does have variety. Guitar classes are offered at several high schools and one middle school.

Atlanta Police Department Badge
Alison Guillory / WABE

The Atlanta Public Schools' board of education has voted to terminate its contract with the Atlanta Police Department as it takes steps toward creating its own police force.

Media outlets report that the board voted Monday to end the contract and produce a plan to hire its own school resource officers.

Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan says the resource officers will be armed, sworn officers, who will be specifically trained to deal with children.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools is a "choice-friendly" district, according to a new report from the Fordham Institute. Choice-friendly means children can attend schools outside their neighborhoods. But the study also says APS could offer more options for families.

Fordham gave APS high marks for its school choice policies. But the district scored lower on the quantity and quality of its programs. Also, it doesn't provide transportation. So students who choose to go to a school outside their attendance zone have to find a way to get there.

Courtesy of the Atlanta Public Schools

  The Atlanta Public Schools received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institute of Justice to research school safety. But that doesn’t necessarily mean more surveillance cameras and resource officers.  

APS will partner with researchers from Georgia State University and educational nonprofit WestEd to come up with a plan to improve students’ safety. Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says that could mean looking at discipline differently:

Charles Jones / WABE

Georgia's Department of Education released graduation numbers today, and Atlanta Public Schools saw double digit improvement.

APS' high school graduation rates climbed more than 12 percent – from 2014's 59 percent to 71.5 percent in 2015. 

Timothy Gadson, APS associate superintendent for high schools, pointed to a mix of contributing factors for the rise.

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