Candidate Questions

What is your understanding of the “Buckhead cityhood” effort to carve Buckhead out of the City of Atlanta and its impact on APS school children who live in Buckhead?

These answers are offered as a community service from candidates who chose to respond.
They do not represent an endorsement by the Buckhead Coalition.

Board of Education Candidates, District 4

  • Mikayla Arciaga: I recognize that the Buckhead City effort is the response of a community that is worried about the safety and security of their families. As it stands right now, de-annexation would be devastating for public school students throughout Buckhead. Because there is no option for Buckhead City to create their own school system, our schools would either fall under the jurisdiction of Fulton County or must adopt models like charter schools. This would not only be extremely costly but remarkably disruptive for our children. The APS operating model differs substantially from Fulton County, and the transition would almost certainly result in loss of community oversight, teacher attrition, and possibly school closures. Additionally, we are already under enrolling in many of our cluster schools, and this kind of turmoil would push many of our families to seek other options for their children that would further destabilize our schools.
  • Jennifer McDonald: I have heard two talk tracks. One, Fulton County Schools would need to absorb roughly 5500 students and assess each individual’s scholastic background/results in order to ensure each student will receive what they need. BCC also must account for all displaced teachers/administrators/support staff being displaced and numerous empty vacant buildings. Other BCC supporters have shared they believe all of the students will remain in APS. To my knowledge, APS has held no meetings with BCC so no discussions or agreements have taken place. The collapse of our school district is a major concern voiced by many families in my district. I have seen metrics of the financial impact to our school district if there were to be a mass exodus and it is devastating. I understand the many concerns of Buckhead citizens, myself included, regarding crime, safety, Mayoral leadership but I am concerned for impact on the school district.

Board of Education Candidates, District 7 At-Large

  • Tamara Jones: My understanding is that if successful, it would mean that the current APS students who live in Buckhead would become students of the Fulton County school system unless some other arrangement could be either legislated or negotiated. If families wanted their children to continue to attend APS they would need to pay out of zone tuition like all other nonresidents. There is no legal precedent for this type of secession. The schools themselves are the property of the citizens of Atlanta via Atlanta Public Schools.
  • Stephen Spring: As one who completed doctoral coursework in an Educational Policy PhD program and one who worked with two cities on regional approaches to quality education, I, Stephen Spring, am fully aware of models out there that we could contemplate. I do not ascribe to fear-based and political claims being used in place of research and dialog. There are solutions that keep children’s learning in the center of policy making.
  • KaCey Venning: My understanding is that residents of Buckhead neighborhoods have consistently felt unheard and even more recently unsafe. The call for cityhood is the latest effort to take ownership and be proactive in creating the environment you would like for yourselves and your family. However, the impact of cityhood will be substantial on all students including current Buckhead students. Here’s how:
    • A new Buckhead city removes $232 million from the school budget that serves all students, including Buckhead students.
    • Cityhood does not automatically create a new school system for the 5500+ students in Buckhead.
    • North Atlanta cluster students will be in limbo with no clear option of where they will attend school.
    • It will take focus off student achievement to agree on legalities of student allocations between APS and Fulton county schools.

Board of Education Candidates, District 8 At-Large

  • Cynthia Briscoe-Brown: Residents of Buckhead and every Atlanta neighborhood are rightly concerned about crime, homelessness, violence, and other issues which affect us all. But as a Buckhead native and lifelong resident, I’m concerned about expending energy on de-annexation instead of working together to solve problems. Separating Buckhead schools from APS would require a constitutional amendment, changes to State law, and/or a complex agreement with Fulton County, all of which distract us from our educational mission. Questions of teaching and support staff, property ownership, debt service, and integrated curriculum create additional obstacles. Students who currently attend North Atlanta schools but aren’t included in the “Buckhead City” boundaries would be severely impacted by forced redistricting. Finally, under most workable scenarios, Buckhead residents would be subject to “taxation without representation,” since they would not be able to vote for APS Board members who allocate their tax money and provide services.
  • Keedar Whittle: As an APS board member, I want to be a part of providing a good education to every student in Atlanta, and I hope that the families living in the proposed Buckhead City choose to remain part of Atlanta. We are a world-class city, a leader in business, innovation, culture, the arts, and more.

If we stick together, we can tap into so much more of what our city has to offer. We are a city of diversity, of bold reinvention, of international conversations, a city of justice and ideals. Together, we can provide our children with a world-class education that will make us all proud.

I want our students who live in Buckhead to be a part of all that APS schools already offer, and of all we’re going to offer through building stronger community partnerships across the city. So I hope the people of Buckhead decide to stay.

 

Board of Education Candidates, District 9 At-Large

  • Jason Allen: My understanding of the Buckhead cityhood effort would present immediate and implode learning loss of children in Buckhead and Atlanta. The overall responsibility of the Atlanta Board of Education is to serve the children of Atlanta. The cityhood would involve not only Atlanta residents but Fulton County as the separation will impact both city and county. The possible disruption to the programming and support of the current North Atlanta schools will change. Additionally, the ability of departments within APS to serve schools in both capacities would be a huge financial dynamic for either city. Other financial concerns about critical areas such as transportation, facilities, student activities and the impact on Fulton county schools are additional dynamics that would have to be considered in planning and budgeting.
  • Jason Esteves: Deannexation of Buckhead would not only be disruptive to the students living in Buckhead, it would have an impact on every single student in our school system. APS students living in Buckhead would become students of Fulton County Schools, but the school sites would remain with APS. Additionally, there are a number of other issues that would have to be addressed. At a time when we should be focusing on recovery from the pandemic, our students can’t afford APS and Fulton County Schools having to focus on “Buckhead cityhood.” www.ajc.com/education/get-schooled-blog/aps-leader-buckhead-divorce-will-leave-aps-students
  • D’Jaris ‘DJ’ James: When reviewing the details about Buckhead City they have intentions of staying within the APS school systems. Upon doing research they will use the “ (Ga. L. 1950, p. 458) now makes clear that APS expands within Atlanta boundaries but is silent on what happens when the city limits the contract. The law does not say that APS shall have the same boundaries as the city. The details will have to be worked out, but as the recent report by opponents of Buckhead City notes: “Of the $607 million that APS collected in [property taxes, retail sales taxes, and lodging taxes] $332 million (55%)” While this clause is in place there is no guarantee APS will vote to agree. This could present the city with challenges when integrating into Fulton County City Schools, along with finding facilities not to mention the stress it could bring to both the students and families.