Atlanta School Board Member Nancy Meister apologized to parents attending the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting for the school system’s tumultuous rezoning process.
Meister called the emails, phone calls and personal letters she received from parents regarding proposals to send their children to another school “heartbreaking.”
“It really was rotten,” Meister said during the Jan. 12 meeting. “I apologize for that … The board had nothing to do with that.”
If the current proposals are adopted, students at E. Rivers Elementary may be moved to Bolton Academy and some Bolton students might be moved to Scott Elementary. Another suggestion moves students in the Pine Hills neighborhood to Garden Hills Elementary instead of Sarah Smith Elementary.
School officials have stressed the rezoning maps are a work in progress. The school system is attempting to balance schools that have shrinking enrollment with schools that are overcrowded.
The district promised to release the new maps prior to the start of the new round of public meetings, on Jan. 30.
On Jan. 19, the school system released its list of rezoning priorities that will guide its decisions as the board redraws the school maps.
Top priorities include developing boundaries to be functional for 10 years based on enrollment; sending students to schools close to where they live; and avoiding splitting up neighborhoods.
Meister said the new maps will be “very different” than the ones parents have seen so far and will include changes that reflect community input.
“There will be another period of time where you can give feedback and at the beginning of March they will give a final recommendation to the superintendent,” Meister said. “He [Davis] may tweak it even more. The final proposal will come to the board in April. There is a lot more time for feedback.”
Meister answered several questions about the enrollment numbers provided by the school system, whether certain schools should be renovated or repurposed and what schools might be built as part of the plan.
In addition, Meister also answered questions about an affidavit signed by parent Cynthia Briscoe Brown that alleges political maneuvering behind the recent selection of the school board chairman.
Brown is co-president of the North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, but said her letter was filed as an individual and not on behalf of her group.
In a 5-4 vote Jan. 9, the board selected Reuben McDaniel to replace Brenda Muhammad as school board chair. At that same meeting, the board referred Brown’s affidavit to its ethics commission.
Brown’s affidavit alleges that McDaniel ran for school board chairman because Davis said he would not sign his contract extension if Muhammad remained as chair of the board.
Brown’s affidavit claims that McDaniel told her Muhammad regularly met with public school vendors, makes recommendations about vendors to Davis, and held up approving contracts. Brown said in a follow up conversation Davis said there was no conversation with McDaniel regarding the chairmanship.
Davis declined to comment through school spokesman Keith Bromery. Bromery also said McDaniel declined to comment.
Brown said the conflicting accounts described in her affidavit concerned her. “I have three people here who may or may not have committed ethical violations,” Brown said.
Meister told BCN members she supported Muhammad because she wanted a continuity of leadership. She said the close vote is not a sign that the board is falling back into the conflicts that threatened its accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Council of Neighborhood Chairman Jim King and others said they were concerned by the allegations in the affidavit.
“It has to be evaluated,” King said. “If you read it, it’s a little disconcerting.”