Staff, parents protest Atlanta school turnaround plans

Days after Atlanta school superintendent Meria Carstarphen unveiled her plans to improve low-performing schools by closing some and putting others under the management of charter school groups, school employees, parents and others sharply criticized those plans during a standing room-only school board meeting on Monday.

“Why do we want to take neighborhood control away from the neighborhoods?” JaTawn Robinson asked the board. “I beg of you to turn around and revamp your strategy.”

Carstarphen announced late Thursday plans to close one school, merge four others and put five others under the management of charter school groups. It's an attempt to improve the schools and keep them out of state control if voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal's Opportunity School District plan this fall.

After the meeting, APS volunteer Duane Milton said he applauded Carstarphen’s “immediacy.”

“What she’s doing is what has to be done,” he said.

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If the Opportunity School District is approved, the state would be able to take over a limited number of Georgia’s lowest performing schools and close them, run them or convert them to charter schools.

Some of the changes Carstarphen recommends would happen next school year, including putting Thomasville Heights Elementary School under the management of a nonprofit affiliated with Atlanta's Drew Charter School. That nonprofit — Pupose Built Schools — would eventually manage four schools, including Carver High School.

Carstarphen said Monday that the charter school organizations that would manage schools—Purpose Built Schools and Kindezi, which currently operates two Atlanta charter schools—have a record of success. Those groups would be able to make changes that the school district couldn’t on its own, she said.

“They’re choosing to label it privatization or charter schools,” she said of critics. “It’s not.”

The board votes on Carstarphen’s recommendations March 7.