“Something that we have not announced yet but that we are absolutely working on is that APS just simply has very few — if any — organized, by-the-district, …. advisory councils and other core task force [organizations] filled with not staff but community members that can help us shape and advise the district on where they really want these areas to go,” she said to the audience at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting Thursday at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.
Carstarphen said she would like to see committees on facilities oversight, district advisory, policy advisory and budget and finance formed in the near future.
When asked the biggest challenge facing schools in the North Atlanta High cluster, she said the disconnect and tension between the north and the south is a major issue facing the entire district.
“I just think there’s just a lot of misunderstanding between the north and the south,” Carstarphen said. “I don’t think it’s unique to North Atlanta, but I just think the district will never be as great as it can be and I don’t think that North Atlanta will be as strong as it could be — or South Atlanta or any of these other areas — if we don’t find a way to make decisions that are thoughtful enough to make every parent or family to feel like they’re really welcome and respected as a school community.”
School board members Nancy Meister, Cynthia Briscoe Brown and Matt Westmoreland were also in attendance at the meeting.
Meister and Brown, who each live in Buckhead, both said overcrowding at schools is a challenge for the North Atlanta cluster.
“[At Morris Brandon and Sarah Smith elementary schools], we have two campuses at both schools, and other schools are getting bigger and bigger,” said Meister, the District 4 board member.
Said Brown, the at-large Seat 8 board member, “We’ve worked really hard to spread the gospel of our wonderful public schools in this cluster for the last 20 years. We do have some capacity issues right now. I think we’re going to need to be figuring out how to deal with those.”
Carstarphen said she has been looking into issues regarding large class sizes at overcrowded schools.
“I went over to Brandon in particular because I heard a lot about that school,” she said. “I’m constantly and carefully monitoring that and actually have asked the principal to keep an eye [out] and report to me class size before it starts to turn into something that would be completely inappropriate. But the numbers are down below 30. More like 25 [to] 26. We all know that’s an issue, and I want to be very thoughtful and respectful for school communities that have those concerns.”
Carstarphen said while smaller class sizes are important for lower elementary school grades, teacher quality makes a bigger impact than class size for upper elementary grades and at middle and high schools. She said the district will continue to hire high-quality educators and support teacher development.