• Douglass Cluster


    Updated for Public Hearing on 2.27.17



    Why is Atlanta Public Schools considering school model changes within the Douglass Cluster?

    While Douglass had a legacy of high performance, the cluster has faced many challenges over past two decades:

    • Declining Enrollment due to:
      • Closing of AHA properties & apartment communities
      • Economic downturn and high rates of foreclosures
      • Change in school zones
      • Phase-out of engineering program
      • Availability of more choices for families without a strategy (charters, single-gender schools, etc.)
    • Under-enrolled schools/Inefficient Buildings
      • Cluster currently uses only 5,712 seats out of 12,225 available
      • 7% utilization rate
    • Leadership transitions, especially at Douglass HS, have created challenges in recruiting and retaining talent
    • Lagging Douglass Cluster Performance – only 2 of 11 schools scoring above 60 on the state College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI)


    What scenarios are under consideration as Atlanta Public Schools explores mergers/consolidations/partnerships in the Douglass Cluster?

    After weeks of public engagement and work from the Douglass Cluster Steering Committee, the district is looking at two option for school model changes in the Douglass Cluster.

    Scenario 1:

    2017-2018 School Year:

    • Move BEST and CSK moved onto one campus (the CSK building), where they will offer grades 6-12 single-gender instruction.
    • Phase out closure of Harper-Archer Middle with only seventh and eighth grade on campus; phase in renovations for a new elementary school
    • Phase in opening of new middle school at BEST campus. Starting with the sixth grade for the 2017-2018 school year, the middle school will add a grade each year until it becomes a full-fledged middle school.
    • Launch partnership at Douglass High with Junior Achievement or Early College program
    • Begin specialized teacher training at Woodson Park Academy


    • 2018-2019 School Year:
      • Continue specialized teacher training for Woodson Park Academy and renovations at Harper Archer;
    • 2019-2020 School Year:
      • Close Fain and Towns elementary schools; open new elementary at renovated Harper-Archer building
    • 2020-2021 School Year:
      • Close Woodson Park Academy and move students to new academy at the former Woodson Primary campus with a partner.


    Revised Scenario 2:

    • Students from BEST and CSK who will be in grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 for the 2017-2018 school year will move to the BEST campus, where BEST and CSK will operate on one campus. BEST and CSK will serve students in grades 8, 11 and 12 for 2018-2019; serve students in grade 12 for 2019-2020 and will close before the 2020-2021 school year.
    • A new middle school will open on the CSK campus, and all rising sixth graders within the Douglass Cluster would attend the school.
    • Rising 9th graders who had attended BEST or CSK will attend Douglass High or return to their home schools.
    • Other elements of Scenario No. 1 will remain in place.
    • Woodson Park Academy Alternative Option:
      • If unable to raise philanthropic support for Emerald Corridor Foundation Revitalization project, BEST Academy building could be used for PreK-8 Woodson Park Academy (may require relocation of BEST/CSK seniors to Douglass HS).

    A merger happens when attendance zones of two or more schools are combined and consolidated into a single school. According to APS policy and practice, staff from both schools must apply for a position at the newly merged school. The board appoints a naming committee to determine a new name for the school. A closing occurs when the attendance zone of a school is redrawn into the attendance zones of one or more existing schools. Staff positions are abolished at the closed school, and staff is encouraged to reapply within the district.

    None of these potential changes are definite at this time and contingent upon board approval.


    What is the rationale for making these specific changes?

    We have many reasons to consider the Douglass Cluster proposal:

    Proposed Scenario 1:

    • BEST and CSK are significantly under-enrolled; merging onto one campus will create a more efficient model while maintaining single-gender option

    Revised Proposed Scenario 2:

    • BEST & CSK are significantly under-enrolled and have not historically excelled academically.
    • Phasing out the single gender academies will ensure that current high school students are not impacted and 6th and 7th graders can complete middle school in the single gender model.
    • Allows for significant long term cost savings by closing a very expensive model.
    • Phasing also provides receiving middle and high school time to prepare for increased enrollment.
    • The BEST building would become available for other programing in the cluster (including an alternative Woodson Park Academy site).

    Both Proposed Scenarios:

    • Harper-Archer MS is significantly underperforming; re-setting the culture by growing a new middle school one grade at a time will allow for the strategic creation of a new model
    • Fain and Towns are significantly under-enrolled and require capital investments; merging into a newly renovated Harper-Archer building will provide greater opportunity to strengthen elementary experience in newly renovated building
    • Launching Woodson Park Academy on a new campus with a comprehensive revitalization effort will provide students with access to early childhood programming, a YMCA and a health clinic
    • KIPP, a leading partner, has a strong track record of performance in Atlanta and significant waiting list of families in the Douglass Cluster. KIPP will be able to attract funding support for the comprehensive approach with the Emerald Corridor Foundation
    • Finally, APS is committed to finding solutions that ultimately strengthen the Douglass HS feeder pattern with the ultimate goal of creating a high performing high school at Douglass HS.


    How will the district handle the hiring process for teachers and staff affected by changes to their schools?

    Consistent with past practices with closed and new schools, all staff from closed schools will be required to apply, with interview priority status, for a position for merged or new schools. The district will support all employees with interview priority status in finding other opportunities within the district as certain positions are abolished over the timeframe of the school changes.

    For the BEST and CSK relocation, the schools will work on creating a more efficient staffing structure.

    In the case of the Fain and Towns merger, staff will be required to apply for a position at the new school. The district will support all employees from Fain and Towns with interview priority status to find opportunities within the district.

    Woodson Park Academy employees will have to apply for positions with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. The district will support all employees from Woodson Park with interview priority status to find opportunities within the district.

    The new Douglass Cluster middle school will have new staff. Staff members at Harper-Archer who are impacted by the phase-out closure of the school will have interview priority status to find opportunities within the district.

    Priority status does not guarantee employment; employees must remain in good standing and meet performance standards for the remainder of the school year to be eligible for hire at other APS schools and will receive priority interview consideration from March through November. Principals will select employees for interviews based on certifications, past experience, evaluations, attendance history and student growth data.



    What programs or efforts make you optimistic for Douglass? 

    We have many bright spots for Douglass as we move forward with the APS mission, vision, strategic plan and turnaround strategy.

    • Launched partnership with the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy (with Atlanta Speech School) at all elementary schools ($1M in grants)
    • Implemented School Improvement Grant for Douglass HS ($4M+)
    • Implemented new curricular resources across the cluster including units of study and a balanced assessment system
    • Worked with community in developing a cluster plan and aligned on STEM as signature theme; have begun implementing requirements for schools to work towards STEM certification
    • Implemented turnaround strategy, with a primary focus on elementary schools within the cluster
    • Selected several new principals who are showing promise
    • Douglass HS has seen significant growth in graduation rates with a 10.1-percentage-point gain in 2016 for a 68.8 percent graduation rate



    What other potential partnerships is the district considering for the Douglass Cluster?

    The Emerald Corridor Foundation has presented APS with an opportunity to leverage planned $18.5 million E-SPLOST investment into a major revitalization proposal.


    The proposal involves new construction that would include a new K-8 Woodson Park Academy (managed by an operating partner, but retaining the neighborhood school status in which all kids from Woodson Park Academy would be enrolled)), a new YMCA and a health care center.


    Such a proposal suggests using the $18.5 million in SPLOST dollars along with about $15 million for the YMCA center and another $20 million of other construction. Emerald Corridor has been aligning funders with such a proposal.


    As such a model would be highly dependent upon philanthropic support, the district has engaged in discussions with potential funders about an educational model in which they would be willing to invest. KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools appears to be the only partner that funders would be willing to support with such a venture.


    KIPP, which operates seven successful charter schools in APS and has approximately 650 students in the Douglass cluster on its waiting list, is interested in being the education provider for Woodson Park Academy as a partner school. This means that unlike charter schools in which students are admitted through a random lottery, in a partnership school model, Woodson Park would remain a neighborhood school as KIPP would serve every student in the Woodson Park attendance zone.  


    The district is also in discussions with other potential partners that could support Douglass HS and/or BEST/CSK, depending upon the final scenario. The Douglass Cluster could possibly be the home of the district’s first Junior Achievement MBA Academy, an innovative school model, designed to provide rigorous standards-based education infused with career-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills. There is also an interest in finding an early college partner for the cluster, which could provide students with increased opportunities for accessing college courses while in high school.


    What partnership agreements have been made should Atlanta Public Schools move forward with the Grove Park Revitalization initiative?

    The goal of this partnership is to revitalize Grove Park and the surrounding Westside Community, and help families break the cycle of poverty by collaborating in a series of capital and programming investments that will collectively change the trajectory of the neighborhood.

    The partnership includes APS, the Emerald Corridor Foundation, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, the YMC of Metropolitan Atlanta and the Douglass Cluster Steering Committee. The draft document, Grove Park Revitalization Partner Compact, outlines the intention of the parties and the commitments of each as follows:

    Atlanta Public Schools will:

    • Allocate $18.5M dollars to the new Woodson Park Academy school building located in Grove Park that will house a new K-8 (TBD) school, adjacent to a new YMCA, early learning center, and a federally qualified health center.
    • Enter into contract with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools to operate and run the Woodson Park Academy as a neighborhood school.
    • Make additional changes in the Douglass Cluster to restore and ensure a more robust feeder and achievement pattern of children into Douglass High School.
    • Continue to fund and support wraparound services for the children and families at Woodson Park Academy through the partnership with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools.


    KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools will:

    • Operate the Woodson Park Academy as a neighborhood school starting the 2019-2020 school year under terms negotiated with APS.
      • This authorization shall be for one (1) year with eight (8) one-year available options to be exercised at the discretion of the superintendent. This contract is conditional upon the firm’s ability to comply with the requirements set forth in the solicitation document and meet the performance standards set by the contract.
    • Provide professional learning opportunities for WPA teachers including observations of KIPP classrooms and participation in KIPP’s scheduled internal professional development during the transition period.

    The YMCA will:

    • Build a new early learning and limited YMCA facility in conjunction with the APS in Grove Park, raising $15M for that purpose.
    • Provide early childhood, Head Start, targeted learning, family wellness, physical education and after school programs in close coordination with the school operator and community.
    • Collaborate and provide training with other community childcare providers.



    The Emerald Corridor Foundation will:

    • Serve as the coordinating entity among the partners to ensure that the goals of the compact are defined and achieved.
    • Lead efforts to identify partners and funds to build and rehabilitate affordable and mixed income housing opportunities in Grove Park neighborhood.
    • Lead efforts to bring new public infrastructure investments to the neighborhood.
    • Identify financial resources needed to deliver new capital and programmatic investments in the neighborhood.
    • Ensure that the initiative includes the community, and protects the legacy of the neighborhood and its residents.
    • Continue to seek and Identify partners that can advance the well-being of Grove Park residents around topics that include economic revitalization, jobs skills training and development, health and welfare, arts and cultures, neighborhood safety, green space and recreation, among others.


    The Steering Committee and its membership will:

    • Publicly support the APS and Grove Park revitalization initiative and its partners through all stages of implementation of the programmatic initiatives laid out herein.
    • Attend and participate in meetings, providing feedback as requested by the partners


    The partners to the compact will work to finalize after the Board of Education takes action on it.



    Can my child transfer in or out of Woodson Park Academy?

    Yes, Georgia’s Public School Choice law allows residents of the City of Atlanta to attend a public school outside of their zoned school if space is available. Persons living outside the City of Atlanta boundaries may apply to attend an Atlanta Public School if space is available and with the payment of non-resident tuition. More information on student transfers can be found on the APS website at http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/transfers.


    What happened to the K-7 and K-8 models that were considered at one point?

    Although the district recognizes the potential benefits that could be created in an expanded elementary school environment, after the concept was presented to the Douglass Cluster on Wednesday, Jan. 25, the community failed to generate significant interest as a potential new design for the cluster.


    What are enrollment projections for the various scenarios?

     Enrollment Projections


    Revised Enrollment Projection


    Are the scenarios final and definite? How can I express my support or concern about any of the changes recommended for the Douglass Cluster?

    None of the potential changes are definite at this time. The earliest opportunity for the Board to act on any recommendations will be at its next meeting on Monday, March 6.

    Community engagement has been an effective component throughout this process. In fact, the numerous changes made thus far to proposals for the future of Douglass Cluster have been a direct result of interactions with students, educators, families, community members, clergy, partners and others.

    We have also been working with the recently formed Douglass Cluster Steering Committee. Members include:


    Steering Committee Members


    The public can reach out to:


    How will APS incorporate GO Teams of closed or merged schools in the Douglass Cluster?

    The district is in an “information gathering” phase of determining what will happen, so school officials have been reaching out to stakeholders in the Douglass Cluster for their ideas on how to configure GO Teams for merged schools. No final decisions have been made on next steps. Interested GO Team members and stakeholders are encouraged to take this survey by Tuesday, March 7.