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APS Superintendent Promises Continued Focus, Investment in Jackson Cluster

Jackson High School can be a "shining example" of academic achievement and community involvement, Davis says.

At a meeting last week with parents in the Jackson cluster of schools, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. reiterated the district's commitment to Jackson High and its feeder schools.

"It is our vision that every cluster will be a cluster of choice," the superintendent said, adding Jackson High School has "tremendous potential" to be a top-ranked school.

The cluster includes (Bolded denotes an East Atlanta Patch school):

  • Coan Middle School (Edgewood)
  • King Middle School (Grant Park)
  • Benteen Elementary School (Benteen Park)
  • Burgess-­Peterson Academy (East Atlanta)
  • Dunbar Elementary School
  • Parkside Elementary School (Grant Park)
  • D.H. Stanton Elementary School (Peoplestown)
  • Toomer Elementary School (Kirkwood)
  • Whitefoord Elementary School (Edgewood)
  • Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (Grant Park & Ormewood Park)
  • Wesley International Academy (Custer/McDonough/Guice)
  • Drew Charter School (East Lake)

Davis' comments to parents comes as the district is about to spend some $40 million on Jackson to refurbish the campus and revamp some academic programs to boost academic achievement.

Ranked 375th of 399 high schools statewide, Jackson has plenty of work to do.

But Davis said he is encouraged by community engagement around the school, sparked by the now-completed APS redistricting of schools.

Feeding on that engagement, the superintendent said Jackson can be a "shining example" for academic achievement and community involvement.

The Jackson plan also includes creating an International Baccalaureate program at the school. Davis said he expects final approval from the International Baccalaureate Organization by 2013, which would make it the district’s second IB secondary school after North Atlanta High School.

Founded in 1968, the IB is a non-profit educational foundation, whose primary mission is to get schools create academically challenging educational programs.

To prepare for IB, APS projects spending $500,000 over the next five years at Jackson.

Jackson is the last of APS' high schools to get a major overhaul. The attention is welcomed by many in southeast Atlanta who feel the district has historically neglected the schools in their quadrant of the city.

One positive signal: APS named Thomas Kenner, a former principal at the former Usher Middle School and Young Middle School, interim principal at Jackson.

He replaced Shirline Carter, Jackson's former principal, and the change was well received by many parents in the cluster.

Still, some parents expressed frustration at the selection process and said they'd hoped for a permanent principal, not an interim.

Some of the candidates for the principal's job were less than stellar, said Leslie Grant, a Grant Park parent and member of the Local School Council.

"The candidates that were put forth on several levels was ridiculous," Grant said. "It was a ridiculous waste of time for several of those people to be in front of us."

Davis said he shared her concerns. But following the massive cheating scandal that rocked the district under Beverly Hall, the disgraced former schools superintendent, he had scores of school positions to fill.

"We've had to find 43 out of 100 principals," he said.

The district has been fighting the after-effects that the scandal has left on APS.

Early on, it wasn't an "easy task to convince people that APS might be the place they want to come," Davis said. "That is now turning around and were starting to see better people interested."

Grant said she understood the undertaking, but she sought a continued commitment from Davis that the focus on Jackson's turnaround won't diminish.

"The commitment has been there and the talk has been there about this exciting opportunity in the Jackson cluster," Grant said. "I want to make sure that there is sort of a bigger master plan for how Jackson is really going to change and really going to turn around."

Davis pledged the district has a long-term focus the school.

"We are going to do all we can to make this a cluster of excellence," he said.

Jason in GP July 18, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Many thanks to Super. Davis and folks like Mrs. Grant for the effort. There very well may not be a more important deciding factor in SE Atlanta's future than MJHS.
Leslie Grant July 18, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Perault thanks for your boots on the ground reporting. I do need to clarify that the quote attributed to me above seemed to imply that the entire list of candidates was less than stellar. I personally thought there was qualified leadership in the mix of candidates, but that is my opinion as a layperson. What I strongly took issue with was the process for selection of both the candidates and the community members on the review panel. The concerns - along with many from around the city - were brought to the attention of APS leadership and we have been given assurances in several different ways that these processes are to be changed and the HR dept. is undergoing a leadership change as we speak. I do have faith in the top leadership at APS to do the right thing. Their sisyphean task is unenviable. Another important point brought up at the meeting was that most of the attention is being spent on the train wreck that is the cheating scandal and the hundreds of good dedicated teachers would like a little bit of kudos for doing the right thing. I want to make sure that we do recognize the good folks in the system and support them. And thanks again to the bold candidates that stepped forward from the school community to apply for the Principal position. It is with the dedication of these good folks, who honestly care about educating children and who can see the light at the end of the tunnel, that we will be able to establish this "cluster of excellence."
Péralte Paul (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Thanks, Leslie.
Lori Spears July 19, 2012 at 01:45 AM
If Superintendent Davis were truly committed to making the Jackson cluster "a 'shining example' of academic achievement and community involvement," he would not have caved to the political pressure of certain neighborhoods and included the Mary Lin community in the cluster's demographics during the rezoning process.
Péralte Paul (Editor) July 19, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Hi, Lori: the superintendent was pretty consistent in saying he wasn't going to take kids from a higher-performing school and put them in a lower-performing one just to raise the lower-performing school's academic standang.
Lori Spears July 19, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Therein lies the rub. An entire city of trailers is being erected at Inman Middle School to accommodate the overcrowding while Coan struggles to make AYP. It will be interesting to see if former Inman Principal Betsy Bockman can achieve the same successes at the "lower-performing" Coan as she did at the "higher-performing" Inman.
intownatlmom July 20, 2012 at 02:44 AM
When will this ridiculous argument be put to rest?? Mary Lin wouldn't have made any difference at Coan because it would have been a very low number of students.I suggest your quit complaining and find ways to lift up your school. Geez!
Lori Spears July 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Clearly you are misinformed. Coan Middle School's enrollment was approximately 300 students last year. The addition of about 100 Mary Lin rising 6th graders would represent a 25% increase in student population in the first year alone; thus alleviating overcrowding at Inman and utilizing unused capacity at Coan. This would "lift up" our school.
intownatlmom July 22, 2012 at 08:26 PM
100? There were at most 80 and many likely wouldn't have gone to Coan. This is an old argument that has been settled with the clusters -- get off of it. Lift up your own school -- don't rely on others to do it for you!!!!

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