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APS Redistricting: Peoplestown's Draft Response

Neighborhood rallies to save fights proposed closure of community's schools.

Editor's note: The Peoplestown community has spent the past five days mobilizing to keep its elementary school, D.H. Stanton, open since the March 31 release of the Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.'s final list of recommendations regarding rezoning of schools and neighborhoods. The Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, Friends of Peoplestown Parks, Peoplestown Neighborhood Association, Community Care, Southside Medical Center, the Tool Bank and the faith community have met since then to develop a response and counterproposal. This is the group's draft response that they shared with East Atlanta Patch:

The sudden announcement of the closing of Daniel Hector Stanton Elementary School (D.H. Stanton ES) rattled a community. Since D.H. Stanton ES’s founding, neighbors have invested energy, resources, and time to the development of long term and sustainable solutions to our neighborhood elementary school. We have partners such as the Atlanta Braves, Emmaus House, the Rick McDevitt Youth Center and the Study Hall providing supplemental, after-school, weekend and summer learning opportunities for students.

Community partners such as Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, Friends of Peoplestown Parks, Peoplestown Neighborhood Association, Community Care, Southside Medical Center, the Tool Bank and the faith community have been engaged over that same period to collaborate and support our students.

Significant resources have been dedicated to improve D. H. Stanton ES and the Peoplestown community. E-SPLOST IV identified D. H. Stanton as recipient of $9 million for facilities improvements and our recommendation of installing solar panels (paralleling those in Stanton Park). Atlanta Beltline, Inc. has invested heavily in revitalizing the Peoplestown community-$4.5 million for the re-development of D.H. Stanton Park (the Beltline’s first park) and $3.5 million with the expansion and redevelopment of Four Corners Park.

If the Superintendent’s recommendation proceeds, there will be no public Pre-K-to-5 elementary school within walking distance for the Peoplestown, Summerhill, nor Chosewood Park communities, as all would be re-zoned to schools east of Boulevard. The arguments presented above contradict Superintendent Erroll Davis’s recommendation that “we have achieved a balance between fiscal responsibility and community sustainability, with student academic success a top priority."

In spite of the current events, Peoplestown has historically and has continued to invest in D.H. Stanton prior to the recent recommendations. Community leaders and residents have been working with APS staff and the new leadership of D.H. Stanton to craft a vision for a Great D.H. Stanton. The community is poised to reinvest energy, resources and time into D.H. Stanton to establish it as one of Georgia's top performing elementary schools.

D. H. Stanton Elementary: A Plan for the Future

The necessary partnerships, resources, programs, and next steps to make D. H. Stanton a great school are at our fingertips – we just need the opportunity to make it a reality.
Our vision for D. H. Stanton is not just to keep the doors open. We have a vision to:

Strengthen Collaboration & Partnerships

  • Work together with the Atlanta Braves, Emmaus House, the Rick McDevitt Youth Center and the Study Hall, Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, Friends of Peoplestown Parks, Peoplestown Neighborhood Association, Community Care, Southside Medical Center, the Tool Bank and the faith community.
  • Leverage our successful relationships with the BeltLine, the Mayor’s Love Your Block Program, the Annie E. Casey Foundation Atlanta Civic Site, and others to continue strengthening the Peoplestown community.

Improve School Safety and Security

  • Promptly address the immediate safety concerns, which included such non-hazardous items as missing letters on the school sign, estimated cost of $5,000.
  • Continue improving safety by relying on our successful Walking School Bus program, school-area patrols by the new Peoplestown private security patrol, and increased patrols by APD Zone 3 officers.


Become a Hub for Pre-K education for Peoplestown and Surrounding Communities

  • Address the growing need for Pre-K that exists within the Peoplestown, Chosewood Park, Benteen, Summerhill and Grant Park communities (the 2012 Census shows over 500 4-year-olds in the 30315 Zip code alone).
  • Open 6 Pre-K classes at D.H. Stanton in Fall 2012 with the capacity to serve 132 children, with minimal facility modifications.

Create the District’s First “Green” Elementary School on the South Side

  • Use the almost $9 million dollars allocated to D. H. Stanton in E-SPLOST IV for roof replacement, HVAC upgrades, exterior upgrades, and other improvements.
  • Establish the district’s first near zero energy elementary school and reduce water use by up to 40% through solar panel installations, and other “green” improvements via E-SPLOST, BeltLine PILOT funds and other sources.

Lead a Culture Shift

  • Community sponsorship of the “The Leader in Me,” a non-curricular leadership and character development program for students.
  • Use funding already secured through the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and others to implement the first 3 years of the program at no cost to the district.


As a coalition of parents, residents, service providers, faith and community leaders, we believe in D. H. Stanton and we pledge to improve it for future generations of children in our neighborhoods. We call on Superintendent Davis to do the same.

Forward Progress

Prior to the recent decision to close D.H. Stanton, contact, discussions and meetings had occured with:

  • Ms. Brenda Muhammad, Dr. Danielle Battle, interim principal Dr. Clara Taylor and teachers at D.H. Stanton to share information on a non-curricular leadership and character development program the community is prepared to sponsor in the school.
  • Mr. Larry Hoskins and Alvah Hardy regarding D. H. Stanton's renovation in which we clearly stated our commitment to work with them and D. H. Stanton leadership in creating a 'Green School', with a solar roof and the goal to establish the district’s first near zero energy school.
  • Dr. Clara Taylor on renovations, a playground and grounds improvements and currently have additional future meetings to continue these discussions.

In addition, there is a strong need for school-based Pre-K in the communities in the prior proposed Stanton Zone. The community has explored this option for several years and
the current D. H. Stanton ES leadership has recognized the need and engaging in discussions to bring this to fruition. Community partners are prepared to offer leadership
and resources to help bring this effort to fruition.

The community, families, staff and students at D. H. Stanton ES were in the process of collaborating to craft a vision for D. H. Stanton ES to be a Great School that is on par
with the best in Georgia. In fact, we leveraged the redistricting discussion to build consensus among a diverse group of families and supporters in our community
regarding our investment in D. H. Stanton ES. Previous school leadership denied and restricted access, which not only impacted students, it damaged relationships with a community that truly cares about the success of our children.

We were excited to learn last week that a search committee for our next principal would include community partners and hopeful that a person such as our Interim Principal who was professionally qualified and personally committed to receiving neighborhood support would be selected. Our approach, effort and voice did not focus on what is "broken," but instead focused on long-term, sustainable solutions for our children and community. Residents with children, without children, children in charters, children in private, and others have accepted a level of ownership of our school and their role in its future. We continue to extend an open hand to all that are willing to work for OUR students. Despite its challenges and leadership, D. H. Stanton is a vital part of OUR beloved communities and our shared success.

A Safe & Secure D. H. Stanton ES

Safety

After receiving a copy of the email from a Summerhill parent titled “DH STANTON IS A HAZARD! MAINTENANCE NEEDS TO ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING ISSUES TODAY! TO ENSURE CHILDREN'S SAFETY,” Peoplestown residents who are construction professionals approached the new leadership at D.H. Stanton to identify the hazards and to develop long-term, sustainable solutions that would engage the community. The results included:

  1. Utility pole has telephone wire down, not electric, poses no electricity threat and is utility company's responsibility. Utility company was contacted.
  2. The chain link fence is obsolete and needs to be replaced.
  3. Playground equipment is obsolete and needs to be replaced. A KaBOOM! build is not possible because of the KaBOOM! playground in D.H. Stanton park. Other alternatives were being explored.
  4. Missing letters on the sign do not pose a safety threat and should be replaced.
  5. The rear walkway should be broken up and re-poured.
  6. It was stated that windows were "filthy", in fact they are fogged. Pressure washing wouldn't help. They should be replaced with new, low-e windows in E-SPLOST renovation.
  7. If the satellite dish is obsolete and not in use, it should be removed.
  8. Basketball court or field repair should be part of E-SPLOST or BeltLine PILOT project. The FoPP has offered its adjustable height goals to D.H. Stanton.
  9. Litter on site. We have a strong track record of Love My Peoplestown Block clean-ups that predates the Mayor's Love Your Block program. D.H. Stanton has been included on a regular basis. Peoplestown has been awarded another Love Your Block grant from the Mayor’s office for the most recent round in April. Also, D.H. Stanton is frequently included as a PRC neighborhood clean-up volunteer site for litter clean up and will continue to be so. Representatives of the community partner organizations will continue to work with Stanton to insure these are addressed and future issues can be effectively addressed.

Security


Peoplestown Neighborhood Association has had a resident and business funded security patrol that monitors the entire neighborhood and more specifically the school
area. The security company is The Executive & Corporate Security Services, LLC. This patrol has been in place since November of 2011. This patrol is staffed with both cleared security personnel, and 30% minimum off-duty APD officers. Examples of TECSS accomplishments specifically around D.H. Stanton ES:

  • There has been little to no loitering on or around D.H. Stanton ES.
  • Arrests were made by patrolling vacant, breached homes. Since the arrests several properties have been boarded & placarded.

Other properties that may pose potential danger to playing children have been aggressively pursued through active community involvement working with the City of Atlanta Code Enforcement. Many delinquent property owners have improved their properties and those that are unsafe have been or are proposed to be bulldozed.

The community has a strong relationship with APD Zone 3 precinct that has beefed up patrols, especially around D. H. Stanton ES. Response times have become a lot quicker in an emergency, based on TECSS and Peoplestown community observations. Stanton Elementary has interior and exterior security cameras, that are functional and in use
according to our interim principal, Dr. Clara Taylor. Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation has explored multiple options to support monitoring of D.H. Stanton ES’s perimeter.

As many residents have mentioned, walkability to a school is also a great security benefit. Parents can walk their children to the school and walk them home afterwards, not leaving children unattended at bus stops, or waiting to be picked up. Since 2005, PRC has coordinated a Walking School Bus for students from nearby apartment
complexes to walk a group of children and a responsible adult to and from school. Councilperson Carla Smith's Office helped get the crosswalks at intersections re-striped
for safer routes for children and older siblings/parents to walk to/from school and park.

APS’ March 31 midnight re-alignment to accommodate its changes to the previous APS map, re-opened, against its previous three recommendations, Thomasville Heights
Elementary School, a school with far greater current and future challenges to enrollment and facilities. Thomasville Heights ES has been documented and highlighted as having
numerous issues with securing their building and pest infestation. Please visit the link below to see some of the media coverage regarding this issue:

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/video-pictures-and-emails-detail-school-rat-infest/nFmBY/

Pre-K

Since 2005, there have been numerous discussions and analyses of the need for Pre-K services in Peoplestown and neighboring communities. Attempts to engage past
D.H. Stanton leadership were met with silence, despite indicators that the need was growing. However, current leadership immediately recognized the clear need in this community and neighboring communities for a quality Pre-K program. As a district administered Pre-K program, a Pre-K at D.H. Stanton could serve not only
the growing number of young children in Peoplestown, but also Summer Hill, Grant Park, Chosewood Park, and Benteen in a relevant and meaningful way.

The benefits of Pre-K for all young children are not to be ignored. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), "Children who attend high-quality preschool enter Kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not," says NIEER director W. Steven Barnett, PhD. Also, they learn important social skills...how to get along, how to contribute, how to share. All of which prepare them to become responsible and caring children, which translates to a well-adjusted student in later grades. Long-term outcomes include increased high school graduation and college attendance rates.

According to Interim Principal, Dr. Clara Taylor, D. H. Stanton is more than ready to support Pre-K, with district approval, starting in the Fall of 2012. On two streets alone
(Atlanta Ave and Ormond Ave) we physically counted a minimum of 15 young children aged 4 and under. Our community is full of diversity and we continue to attract young couples with children who are looking for a quality Pre-K program and beyond. D.H. Stanton could address that need immediately with room to grow. It is estimated that D.H. Stanton can accept up to 132 Pre-K students in 2012/13, comprising 6 Pre-K classes.

According to the APS demographic study, Parkside and Cook's projected Pre-K numbers for the 2012-13 school year would meet a minimum of 100 students from those two school populations alone to begin a Pre-K program (see link below to SRT enrollment projection levels by school and grade level). Based on 2010 Census information, the number of rising 4 year olds in the 30315 zip code alone tops over 500 children. These are compelling numbers that certainly support the need for a quality Pre-
K at D. H. Stanton. All of our community organizations are poised and ready to work with D.H. Stanton in this highly important endeavor.

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