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APS Could Create Agreement Between Charter and Traditional Schools

APS Charter School Task Force discusses developing an agreement between APS schools
APS Charter School Task Force discusses developing an agreement between APS schools
Credit Chris Ferguson/WABE

The Atlanta Public School Board could soon vote on whether to develop a compact between traditional and charter schools in the district. The recommendation comes from a charter school task force for the board, which met Wednesday.

Task force members say the compact will allow the district to help bridge the divide between charter and traditional schools.  School Board member Byron Amos chairs the task force.

“It gives us the chance to identify the best practices on both levels, on the traditional school side and the charter school side, to prepare to share those, also look at the economies of scales to see what we can do together around our financial picture.”

Amos says if the effort is approved, it will not be the first time the school system has worked to develop a compact.

A draft of another compact was started under Dr. Beverly Hall but was never voted on.

“Leadership changed and the leadership that came in really did not see it as an important tool to move us forward, so we do have a draft. Even those people who developed the contract see that there’s a bigger need for enlarging the conversation.”

School Board Chairman Courtney English says he’s in favor of creating a new compact…

“I think this is in the step in the right direction that will allow for charter and traditional folks to sit at the same table, collaborate, work together and to fulfill the mission and promise of what charter schools were initially designed to do, and that is be laboratories of innovation. Once we have identified those things that that are working for our kids they’re supposed to be applied to our traditional schools, and this is an opportunity to do just that.”

An exact process for developing the compact is still being determined, but task force members say if approved they plan to get input from school leaders and other stakeholders. Grady High School parent Abby Martin says community input throughout the process is vital.

“If we’re trying to build one, I think it’s important that you communicate and let people have feedback at a meaningful point in time.”

Compacts between charter and traditional schools have been approved in a number of other cities including New York, Denver and Sacramento. The Austin Independent School District, where incoming APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen worked, also approved a compact. While in Austin, Carstarphen was credited with raising graduation rates and helping the district get through tough financial times. But she was also criticized when the school board partnered with a charter school operator to create an in-district charter school at an elementary school in East Austin.