Editor's note: To parents of Wesley International Academy in Custer/McDonough/Guice, it's a no-brainer: Their charter school needs a new home. Atlanta Public Schools closed seven schools amidst falling enrollments and property tax revenue, including Cook Elementary in Capitol Gateway. Wesley parents want to rent Cook and APS' approval would mean $875,000 a year in rent to the district — money, parents say, that could be used to bolster academic programs. Wesley parents, who already have 657 signatures on a petition for the Wesley-to-Cook initiative, plan to make their case for APS to support the measure as well as more attention to the Jackson High School cluster at the June 4 meeting of the APS Board of Education. Richard Quartarone, a Summerhill resident and Wesley parent, sent a letter to APS Board members Brenda J. Muhammad and Courtney D. English. He shared his letter with East Atlanta Patch.
Dear Ms. Muhammad and Mr. English,
As a 4th Generation native of metro Atlanta, I am very aware of the racial, economic, and geographic disparities that persist throughout public education in Atlanta. As members of the Atlanta Public School Board, I know that you have seen first-hand how educational disparities can undermine the educational opportunities for every child in the city. As a parent at Wesley International Academy and a long-time resident of Summerhill and the Cook attendance zone, I am hopeful about the role that we can all play in eliminating an educational disparity that has existed in Atlanta Public Schools for 30 years.
You may be aware that North Atlanta High School has been teaching an International Baccalaureate (IB) Curriculum since 1982. Since then, APS has implemented IB in all of the other schools in the North Atlanta High School Cluster, and ONLY the North Atlanta Cluster. This means that only children in North Atlanta are able to get a k-12 IB education in Atlanta Public Schools.
Over the last week, I have spent a great deal of time studying the educational landscape of Atlanta Public Schools, and I was shocked to find such a clear educational disparity that has been in existence for the last 30 years. I was just as surprised to find that Wesley International Academy, a public school, is the first piece of the puzzle to eliminate that disparity and create new educational opportunities for the thousands of children in the Jackson High School cluster and possibly many thousands more throughout the city.
How can you and APS help eliminate this disparity in Atlanta Public Schools? Support Jackson High School, and support Wesley to Cook.
The easiest way to eliminate the IB disparity is to support the activities already happening in the community by making sure Wesley is secure. Because half of Wesley’s students live in the Jackson Cluster, Wesley provides the middle school foundation for Jackson to implement IB. If something happens to Wesley, Jackson will experience a major setback in IB implementation. The first step in securing Wesley is securing an APS facility for Wesley in Southeast Atlanta. Cook offers both a tangible and a symbolic solution. It is a tangible solution because Cook is the only closed APS facility in Southeast Atlanta able to house Wesley at its current enrollment. It is symbolic because Cook was once a segregated school for white children. With Wesley, Cook can become a symbol of equal access to education and community empowerment unprecedented in Atlanta. (Wesley’s demographic information attached.)
There has been a grammar school on the corner of Memorial Drive (aka Fair St.) and Kelly Street for 122 years. For most of that time it was a segregated school for white children. APS recently completed an $8 million renovation of Cook to improve educational access to children at Capitol Homes. Soon after the Cook renovation, Capitol Homes underwent a $150 million transformation. Both of these efforts were to provide opportunities to economically disadvantaged Atlanta families. Most of Wesley’s students are African American and eligible for free or reduced lunches. Wesley provides them an education that they would normally be out of reach — unless they lived in Buckhead or could afford to send their children to private school. Wesley matches the vision for Capitol Gateway and Cook when they were renovated by creating an educational center for new opportunity in Southeast Atlanta.
I believe that great movements start with simple beginnings. I applied to Wesley because I wanted a high quality public education for my children. I joined a group of Wesley parents and public school advocates to improve the educational opportunities for my child and for every child in the Jackson Cluster. Today, I am encouraging you to join us in our effort to make Cook and Wesley symbols of educational opportunity for every child in Atlanta.
I am only one person in a large organized group of Wesley parents and community members supporting the repurposing of Cook for Wesley. We are not affiliated with the Wesley Board. I have only copied the Chairperson of the Wesley Board since he is in regular conversation with both of you on several issues. I included members of SEACS, the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, and the Grant Park Parent Network who all support Wesley to Cook. Also included is a representative of the Capitol Gateway development. There are also several attachments that provide you with background on the depth and breadth of grassroots support that exists for Wesley and Cook.
Wesley Parent | Summerhill Resident | Cook Attendance Zone