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APS Redistricting: Summerhill Prepares To Fight

All options are on the table.

On April 10, when the Atlanta Public Schools' Board of Education voted and enact a set of recommendations put forth by the superintendent, Summerhill residents were happy.

Despite the marathon meeting that went into the early hours of April 11, the plan, as Summerhill knew it, called for the neighborhood to be rezoned to Parkside Elementary School in Grant Park.

But when APS released its tentative maps for the new attendance zones in the late afternoon of April 13, in Peoplestown.

The neighborhood, which called an emergency meeting on Sunday and plans to meet with APS board members this Friday, is outraged at what residents say is a last-minute switcheroo.

Since then, Summerhill has held several meetings, is considering starting a petition to support moving the neighborhood back to Parkside and if else fails, will file a lawsuit to block the neighborhood's move to Peoplestown

"It really kind of caught us off guard," Josh Murtha, president of the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, told East Atlanta Patch Tuesday.

At the crux of the Summerhill's argument: They fought for Parkside because it's a higher performing school. Summerhill's current zoned school, Cook Elementary, is an underperforming school.

In fact, Cook, one of the seven schools slated to close at the end of the school year, is one of the worst performing elementary schools in East Atlanta Patch and ranks 1,081st out of Georgia's 1,176 grammar schools, as gauged by the 2011 standardized test scores.

But D.H. Stanton ranks lower, placing 1,098th statewide, according to schooldigger.com.

Parkside ranks 674th.

To place Summerhill's 159 elementary school aged kids in an even lower performing school, when a higher performing one exists, defies logic, Murtha said.

Indeed, when parents at Coan Middle School fought its proposed closure because of under enrollment, some suggested students zoned for Mary Lin Elementary be moved to attend Coan instead of Inman Middle School to relieve overcrowding there.

But APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. countered he would not take kids from a higher performing school to prop up the enrollment and academic performance of a lower performing one.

Summerhill says it should be treated no differently.

"Our neighborhood deserves better," Murtha said. "We deserve a school that's performing now."

To be sure, Summerhill and Peoplestown work together on a number of issues that affect the two adjoining communities such as traffic other concerns stemming from Turner Field.

And Summerhill registered voters cast their ballots at D.H. Stanton.

And both are in Neighborhood Planning Unit-V, which advocates for what's in the best interest of the collection of neighborhoods it represents.

But when D.H. Stanton suddenly found itself on a closure list just 10 days before the board of education was slated to vote, Summerhill remained neutral on Peoplestown's drive to keep its neighborhood school open.

Summerhill residents did not want to jeopardize what they believed was a hard-fought drive to be zoned to Parkside.

An APS spokesman said he could not give specifics on why Summerhill was ultimately moved, but that generally, the district's aim is to "more evenly spread enrollment" among the schools left open.

In an e-mail to East Atlanta Patch, Brenda J. Muhammad, the board of education member whose district includes both Summerhill and Peoplestown, said she had been out of town and was just returning so she did not have an immediate comment.

D.H. Stanton has room for 726 students, but is only 36.4 percent full with 264 pupils.

For its part, the Peoplestown Neighborhood Association presented a that included what the community had done with corporate and civic partners for the school, potential solutions that could keep the school open and how the community was involved on a regular basis.

It did not advocate that Summerhill or any other neighborhood be moved into its attendance zone.

Peoplestown residents have said the fruits of those efforts are beginning to pay off and that it takes time to turn things around.

But Summerhill says it should not have to wait.

"We deserve a school that's performing now," Murtha said.

"We have an opportunity to give our kids a quality education now. What happens to the kids that being failed now for the future promise of kids that won't be failed?"

Ashlie April 19, 2012 at 12:37 AM
As a resident of Summerhill, I frankly can't understand why anyone would want their children to go to an underperforming school like Stanton, when both communities have the opportunity to send their children to higher performing schools (Summerhill to Parkside, Peoplestown to Benteen). Why on earth would you not want the best education possible for your children? And that is all Summerhill is asking for. If Peoplestown wants to continue to send their children to a underperforming school, with widespread cheating scandals and dangerous facilities, then that is their choice. Summerhill chooses our children and putting their education and safety first before all else. We want a good education for our children now, not a promise of a potentially good education in the future. Words are cheap, the scores speak volumes. After all, it is not like Stanton being an underperforming school is news, it has been that way for years and has not improved. So why should we believe that is going to change? SUMMERHILL WILL NOT STAND BACK AND BE SENT TO A WORSE PERFORMING SCHOOL. WE WILL FIGHT FOR WHAT IS BEST FOR OUR CHILDREN AND THEIR EDUCATION!!! UNITED WE STAND.
CT April 19, 2012 at 01:37 AM
For perspective, Summerhill used to have an elementary school - Ralph McGill. I worked there with the Hands on Atlanta AmeriCorps program from 1994 - 1996. It was a small, underperforming school, but with dedicated leadership and community support. (Sound familiar?) Despite all of the efforts and energy invested to make it work, it's gone and Summerhill's children are at Cook. We will not allow this to happen again. Each community should be able to decide and advocate, on its own, for the best opportunity for its children. Summerhill made its decision prior to the board meeting and advocated for it. If Peoplestown and the Board want DHS to remain open, then they need to do what it takes to make that school work. It cannot be achieved by forcing the children of Summerhill to sacrifice for the potential future of Peoplestown. This is our opportunity and we will do everything we can to take it.
Andrea K-s April 19, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Agreed. Here's hoping all the dust settles soon & we can all bring passion to the education experience itself instead of to a war on how we can all best serve kids that have been historically shortchanged.
Summerhill 2 Parkside! April 20, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I believe two things Summerhill deserves a GREAT school RIGHT NOW! and children are more important than buildings. We have two communities that have been failed by APS for decades and a chance to RIGHT NOW! have good schools , so why would you wait? The Superintendent didn't want to wait. Summerhill didn't close Stanton! Summerhill chose a better school for our community! We don't feel badly and are proud we put are children first! Now it's time for the Board to do the responsible and morally right thing! Make the recommendation to the Superintendent to RE-ZONE! Summerhill to Patkside. That's why there called "Tentative" maps. Board members who don't put children first will pay the piper in Noverber 2013!
Sharon Tousant April 23, 2012 at 11:51 PM
El, I've silently stalked these boards for a few days now and it gives me hope knowing that there is another dimension to the conversation of redistricting. Education needs more proponents like you to engage us in a balanced discussion. As an educator for the district, I too often hear what is wrong with the system. Thanks for encouraging dialogue regarding how the community can help to improve the situation. Sorry it's falling on deaf ears.

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