Atlanta school board considers own police force

Superintendent Erroll Davis proposes forming Atlanta Public Schools’ own police force, as other metro Atlanta districts have done. Armed school resource officers would replace school security now provided by Atlanta police officers.

Davis told the school board at its Monday meeting that establishing an APS police force would put full-time school resource officers in schools now being served by 55 full-time and 233 part-time Atlanta police officers.

The plan has been under consideration for about a year, said Marquenta Sands, APS director of safety and security, who in her presentation alluded to the massacre by a gunman last month of 20 students and six adults in a Connecticut elementary school. Davis said it would give the district more control over school security and allow it to take preventative measures.

“What we need is a more full-time commitment,” said Davis. “We want to have officers who are there full time and learn all of the kids in the cluster as they move from elementary to high school. The officers can do planning among themselves, identify sensitive relationships and head these issues off much earlier.”

Sands said school districts of Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, and Cherokee counties have their own security forces, although her research has found “limited data showing a decrease in violence” in school districts nationwide that have formed their own police forces.

Davis told the board he would present a proposal “in the next month or two” on how the district would phase out the Atlanta police officers and develop its own police force, and how much it would cost.

The board on Monday also decided the fate of Atlanta Preparatory Academy, voting 8-1 (Byron Amos dissenting) to follow Davis’ recommendation not to renew the charter of the school. APS executive director of innovation Allen Mueller told the board the school has underperformed academically and has financial problems.

According to Mueller, the K-8 school with about 450 students ranks in the bottom 20 percent of schools statewide in academic performance; its enrollment is 45 percent lower than originally projected; and it owes $801,384 to for-profit education management company Mosaica Education, Inc.

Atlanta Prep board members and Mosaica co-founder and president Gene Eidelman said afterward the school will take its case to the state charter commission, which was approved by voters last November in part to consider charter proposals rejected by local school boards.

The board in December gave the school a month to present its case for renewal. Atlanta Prep officials said the school delayed opening for a year after its charter was granted by the district, so it only had three years, instead of the usual four, to prove itself.

“It’s a wrong decision,” said Eidelman. “There are pages in the state law that say five-year performance measures. We only had three years. They are using a clerical error to close a school that is better than many of the schools in its same neighborhood.”

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