Minutes for Grady High School Local School Council Meeting January 14, 2014
Members in attendance: Ms. Sharon Bray, chairwoman and parent representative; Mr. James Campbell, secretary and teacher representative; Ms. Gayla Blair, teacher representative; Mr. Ruben Brown, parent representative; Ms. Angela Robinson, business representative; Ms. Renee’ Steckl, parent representative; Mr. John Webster, parent representative
Members absent: Dr. Vincent Murray, vice chairman and principal; Mr. Brian Kish, parent representative
Guests in attendance: Mr. Byron Barnes, instructional coach; Officer Antwan Denson, school resource (Atlanta Police Department) officer; Ms. Jacqueline Marable, parent liaison; Ms. Susan Muntzing, College and Career Center volunteer and parent of alumni; Dana Persons, parent; Dr. David Propst, assistant principal; Chief Marquenta Sands, Director of Safety and Security; Mr. Joshua Weinstock, student
With a quorum being present, Ms. Bray called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. on January 14, 2014.
Mr. Campbell moved to adopt the agenda. Ms. Robinson seconded the motion. The Council unanimously adopted the agenda. Mr. Campbell moved to adopt the minutes from the previous meeting. Ms. Bray seconded the motion. The Council unanimously adopted the minutes.
With Dr. Murray absent, Mr. Campbell relayed the principal’s report. Enrollment was 1,287.
Grady had four Posse scholars who will receive full tuition to their respective colleges. The recipients were Ryan Bolton, who will attend Syracuse University; Xavier Nelson, who will attend Brandeis University; Alanne Stroy, who will attend Syracuse University; and J.D. Capelouto, who will attend Boston University.
Grady High School will submit ten projects to the district academic fair. Grady students won awards at the Georgia August Fall Forum for Latin. Ben Simonds-Malamud earned the highest award, summa cum laude, in Sight Passage Recitation. Jasmine Lawrence won her gladiator bout. Olivia Volkert and Ben Simonds-Malamud finished fifth in the quiz bowl tournament despite having only two team members while the other schools had four members. The robotics team was on the third-place team at the Georgia Robotics Invitational Tournament and Showcase.
In 2012-13, Grady High School had 80 students earn the A.P. Scholars distinction from the College Board. 29 students were categorized A.P. Scholars (3 or better on 3 or more exams), 10 were categorized A.P. Scholars with Honors (average of 3.25 or better on 4 or more exams), 41 were A.P. Scholars with Distinction (3.5 average with at least a three on 4 or more exams), and 4 were National A.P. Scholars (4 or higher on all exams taken with 8 or more exams taken). Nationally, only 18% of students who take A.P. exams earn these distinctions. Out of all juniors and seniors at Grady, over 12% earned the distinctions.
Uzuki Kakinuma, Justin Oliver, Adam Schatz and Julia Borthwick passed the first Georgia Music Education Association auditions. Liam Henry and Nicholas Hamilton made the first round for All-State Jazz. Uzuki Kakinuma and Justin Oliver won chairs at the Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra.
This past weekend, Grady hosted its fifth debate tournament. At the Model Arab League competition in October, Margaret Stockdale and Molly Gray won outstanding delegation. Mr. Campbell concluded the principal’s report.
Chief Sands reported that the district’s facilities personnel had visited Grady two nights in a row that week. As of the morning of January 14, all of the lighting has been replaced with the exception of lights under the gymnasium overhang. Those lights were nonfunctional as a result of a damaged power transformer which required repair. She stated that the Safety & Security office’s goal was to keep all campuses well lit and safe. However, the office does not always get timely information on light outages. The office had just received additional officers, so it would be able to provide more security on campus and, therefore, receive more information about campus lighting and security conditions. Chief Sands also noted that Grady did not have a street address visible at the front of the building, so her office would add that.
Chief Sands stated that the facilities office would trim the trees on Grady’s property to allow additional visibility, but would not be able to trim or cut down trees on City of Atlanta property even if those trees affected visibility on Grady’s campus. She also stated that the central administration would not be able to add a fence surrounding Grady’s entire campus. She stated that additional Atlanta Police Department officers would help with campus security in lieu of these other improvements, but that campus climate and culture were also important for establishing a safe campus. Chief Sands had organized a training for the coming Tuesday to inform support staff of the roles they can play in campus safety.
Chief Sands stated that the card readers Dr. Propst had requested for the gymnasium had been approved and ordered. She added that the school should have a limited number of entrances for visitors. Dr. Propst interjected that the card readers were not for visitors to enter. The card readers would allow teachers in the trailers to use their access cards to enter the gyms. In the event of a tornado, the teachers of classes in the trailers would need to take their students to the gymnasium for safety.
Ms. Robinson asked Chief Sands how many additional officers her office had received from the APD. Chief Sands responded that her office now had 81 officers for all of the schools. She stated that Grady would continue to have two full-time officers during the day and would receive an additional part-time officer for the hours of 4 to 8 p.m. Officer Denson interjected that he would continue to serve as one of the full-time officers during the day and would also begin serving as the part-time night officer. Chief Sands responded that having an officer familiar with the campus for the night position would be beneficial.
Ms. Steckl stated that trees that blocked visibility on campus create a safety issue regardless of whose trees they were. She advocated coordinating with the city to have city trees trimmed for increased visibility and safety on Grady’s campus. She also suggested that, if the entire campus could not be fenced, that partial fencing should be strategically placed to secure the buildings on campus. She added that, due to its stadium, proximity to Piedmont Park, and active extra-curricular programs, Grady’s campus received a large number of visitors. Having areas of low visibility and easy access to campus by unauthorized individuals posed significant safety concerns. Mr. Campbell added that the campus has already had security issues result from the lack of fencing. He stated that, due to the number of outbuildings, many students did not have to enter their classrooms through the metal detectors. He referenced an incident the prior year in which a student with a weapon, whose first class was in an outbuilding, entered class without being screened by the metal detectors. Mr. Campbell stated that students frequently commented on the ineffectiveness of the security screening process.
Chief Sands responded that facilities could coordinate with the city on the issue of trees and visibility. She stated that additional fencing would not improve the metal detector screening. However, her office could procure additional metal detectors so that students with classes in the outbuildings would have to pass through metal detector screening. She added that additional metal detectors would require additional staff, but her office had only police officers, not civilian security personnel.
Dr. Propst stated that even limited fencing could be adequate to envelope the buildings and prevent intruders from accessing it. Such fencing would also create a single access point to the buildings, thereby eliminating students’ ability to bypass metal detector screening. He also noted that teachers are not security officers. He added that, although the light bulbs have been replaced in existing lights, additional lights are needed. Several areas, including the catwalk beside the old gym, have no lights and thus are not illuminated at night not because of nonfunctional bulb, but because of the complete lack of external lighting there. Furthermore, several lights are burning out frequently due to wiring issues. Officer Denson stated that rodents chewing through wires were responsible for these lighting problems.
Chief Sands stated that she had not previously been informed of the rodent and wiring issues. She suggested having facilities visit frequently until the necessary repairs are made. She added that Georgia Power is responsible for some of the lighting and usually responds quickly to requests for repairs and replacements. Chief Sands offered to return and address the Council again. Ms. Bray suggested that Chief Sands instead meet with the school’s safety committee. Dr. Propst said the meeting would be the following Wednesday at 10 a.m. and that he would send Chief Sands a formal invitation.
Dr. Propst reported to the Council on behalf of the safety committee. In addition to the safety improvements relayed by Chief Sands, Dr. Propst informed the committee that he was providing teachers with flash lights and orange vests for use during emergencies and emergency drills. Ms. Bray inquired about issues regarding traffic safety in the 10th Street student parking lot. Dr. Propst informed the committee that the school was adding an island that would allow only right-hand turns from the student parking lot. He stated that the school planned to add the island in March.
Ms. Steckl raised the issue of Grady’s shortage of science labs. Three science teachers currently teach in regular (non-lab) classrooms. The situation is problematic given the increasing demands of science instruction. Ms. Bray responded that the science support team had a meeting planned with Dr. Murray to address that issue. Ms. Steckl responded that she raised the issue in the Council because it related to the school’s needs as a whole as well as, tangentially, to the issue of safety and security. Ms. Bray agreed and asked if we should invite Mr. Jere Smith to meet with the Council about science labs as well as the engineering labs. She stated Dr. Propst had informed her that the district facilities office had indicated that they believe the current engineering labs are adequate. Mr. Campbell stated he was working with Mr. Raymond Dawson, the Academy Leader for Biomedical Science and Engineering, to identify the mandates and specifications for the engineering labs.
Ms. Steckl asked if the school was doing anything with the old student parking lot by the portable units. Dr. Propst responded that AT&T had indicated they would make improvements to the lot when they used it for the Music Midtown event. However, they had not done so. Dr. Propst said that he and Mr. Rudy Parsons, a district facilities supervisor, were pursuing the issue with AT&T. Ms. Bray asked if Grady had any claim on a portion of the revenue generated by the campus to be used for campus improvements. Dr. Propst responded he would pursue that issue with Mr. Parsons as well. He stated that relatively inexpensive options, such us small stones, could make the old student lot a viable parking option.
Ms. Bray stated that parents emailed the Council to request a space utilization study. The email addressed many issues that the Council had been discussing this academic year. Many actions and plans in the past regarding facilities were short-term solutions that were a response to a crisis. The district opines that Grady is at capacity (not over-capacity), yet the facilities are still inadequate for the school’s instructional needs. It has too few science labs and too many access points. Ms. Bray raised the possibility of addressing the issue to the school board representatives or Superintendent Errol Davis. Mr. Webster suggested that these concerns were safety issues as well as academic issues. Ms. Bray agreed that they were both safety and academic issues and added that they were also teacher retention issues. Several of Grady’s floating teachers and science teachers without laboratory classrooms have left the teaching profession. Mr. Campbell added that the issues were also achievement issues. Grady was designated a Focus School as a result of graduation rates. Mr. Campbell stated that, having been a floating teacher, he could attest that the complications of floating negatively impacted student achievement.
Mr. Brown suggested that Grady seek the advice of a school that had undergone a similar process in the past. Mr. Webster suggested the Council request a copy of the district’s strategic plan for Grady if such a plan exists. Ms. Bray also stated that the school now has a settled population (no more magnet program, no more general transfers, and a recently redefined attendance zone). The school should be able to request a space utilization study, especially given that many APS schools have entirely new facilities. Mr. Campbell added that the state now required students to complete courses associated with career pathways. Therefore, appropriate facilities for engineering and law classes were not simply a desire, but a necessity if Grady planned to adhere to district and state mandates regarding curriculum. Mr. Webster stated that the Council and Grady should specify what the school needs and where those needs are mandated when communicating the school’s needs to the district. Ms. Bray suggested the Council start by requesting the space utilization study suggested by Grady parents. Mr. Webster added that, for the sake of simplicity, Grady could provide the district with a bullet point list of needs that would be quick to read. Ms. Bray agreed and suggested assembly such al list at the next meeting. Mr. Barnes noted that the school had already conducted a facilities and instructional audit the previous fall. He suggested using that report for the purposes of assembling a list of needs. Mr. Webster suggested also asking school board members to visit Grady so they could see the facilities and discuss the school’s needs.
Ms. Muntzig stated that Inman Middle School had undergone a similar process with regard to space utilization and expansion 14 years earlier.
Ms. Persons stated that APS indicated that Grady was 25% inefficient in its use of space. She stated that the PTSA believed that core classes were being neglected in favor of electives, whereas the PTSA believed that core classes should have priority over electives. She also stated that academies should be equal with respect to how much space they have.
Ms. Bray moved to adjourn the meeting. Ms. Robinson seconded the motion. The Council unanimously approved. Ms. Bray adjourned the meeting at 5:11 p.m.