APS Redistricting: Superintendent Gives His Take On The Debate
In wide-ranging interview, Erroll B. Davis talks about the redistricting and his impressions of the process, so far.
Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. said he's giving serious consideration to all input from parents regarding the ongoing redistricting process.
But Davis, who spoke to Patch editors in a wide-ranging interview about the schools rezoning issue, reiterated that he pays more attention to facts presented in the various arguments than what he considers "noise" in the e-mails and letters he's reviewed.
"I'm not sure what purpose is served by sending me 100 copies of a standardized position paper, without adding anything to it," Davis said in the meeting at APS' central offices Downtown. "I just want to hear the argument."
Nearly all East Atlanta Patch communities have submitted official position statements on last November's four rezoning plans created by a team of demographers APS hired as consultants.
Many of the neighborhoods have submitted new ones in response to the demographers' new plans — whittled down to two options — that were released in January.
While not commenting on the substance of its argument, Davis held up the Old Fourth Ward's position statement as one based on facts.
"They put forward some very logical, very excellent arguments in a nice, low-key manner," the superintendent said. "They put their positions and the facts on the table only with enough copies to make sure that you noticed."
Specifically, he later explained it was the neighborhood's statement "about being segregated and denying their children the opportunity for a better education. It was put forward logically and candidly but without shrillness and with the recognition that I didn't need 100 copies to understand the position."
Davis also said the demographers proposals are just suggestions for parents and district officials to consider.
They've been helpful tools in that they garnered plenty of input from parents, but the superintendent stressed the proposals are not binding.
"I'm not in any way bound by what the demographers have put out there," Davis said, explaining he expects to present his final plan of recommendations to the Board of Education in March.
The board, which would then review that plan, is expected to vote on it within several weeks of Davis' submission. The new zones would be in place by the time school reopens in the fall of 2012.
Davis said he understands parents' concern regarding how the redistricting may affect educational quality.
It's the underlying theme behind what Davis said has been a common refrain from parents, namely, to leave their school alone.
"My answer to that is I wish I could," Davis said.
But Atlanta, like DeKalb County, which went through its own redistricting process last year, has too many seats in its schools and not enough children to fill them.
"We've got 60,000-plus seats that we're heating and cooling and lighting for 47,000 students," the superintendent said.
"If we're going to be prudent and responsible mangers in a fiscal sense, we have to at least look at the issues and the problems. We have to balance our commitment to fiscal discipline of course with concerns of parents."