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.