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Buckhead council talks charter school, citywide safety
by Caroline Young
April 11, 2013 09:22 PM | 1889 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods is supporting an effort to open a new public school in the community.

At the council’s monthly meeting Thursday at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, historic Brookhaven representative Glenn Delk made a motion to authorize council president Jim King to sign a letter of support of the Atlanta Classical Academy.

The council voted to approve his request of the letter, which is addressed to Atlanta Board of Education chair Reuben McDaniel and District 4 member Nancy Meister.

Two council board members from Buckhead Forest and Garden Hills abstained. The request includes a petition, which Delk said has more than 1,200 signatures.

However, he is not hopeful the school board will approve the petition.

“I think the board will force them to go to the state commission,” Delk said. “It’s difficult to get APS to qualify any charter. … APS has a lot of requirements.”

While most of the meeting’s discussion around the issue was positively supporting the school, Buckhead Forest neighborhood representatives expressed concern about its unknown location.

“They don’t know where they can locate it. No one will agree to sell or lease property until they get a petition,” Delk said.

The school has a few possible locations, according to Matthew Kirby, Atlanta Classical Academy’s board chair.

“It is a decision we are literally holding until the 11th hour,” he said. “We're trying to put assets in place that would serve the community.”

He said it is hard to negotiate the “best and final deal” while using public dollars if the location must be disclosed ahead of time.

“It’s not in any of our interests to disclose this before we’re approved,” he said. “We’re trying to play this as wisely as we think we can. … It’s a political process.”

Five of the nine school board members must vote to approve the petition.

“It’s important that they all hear that we want this,” he said. “It means a lot of this effort to get the general support of this body with more than location in mind.”

The school’s projected opening date would be fall 2014.

In other news, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard briefed the group on the recent Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal indictment.

“We worked on it for 21 months and had as many as eight or nine lawyers working on it,” he said. “As a parent … I’m hoping people will stop for a moment and say to themselves, ‘We need to examine our public education system,’ … Then we will feel like we accomplished something.”

Howard said the investigation is ongoing.

He also said burglaries in the county have reduced by nearly 30 percent since 2009.

“That’s the good news. The bad news is, so far this year, our burglaries have started to go back up again,” Howard said. “There’s been about a 1.6 percent increase over the same time last year.”

He said the police attribute the increase to gang activity involving primarily teenagers.

“A lot of the activity involves young people,” he said. “Our statistics show that about 48 percent of burglaries in our country are committed by juveniles when they should be in school.”

Howard said the attorney’s office is struggling financially, after taking a $527,000 decrease in its budget.

“We might have to start asking the city of Atlanta to help us,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense we have 2,000 policemen and the number of prosecutors is decreasing. It makes it counteractive.”

Atlanta Police Lt. LeAnne Browning, project director of Operation Shield, said the department’s initiative is working on merging state-of-the-art technology with traditional practices.

“We are creating a domain awareness system … where police can have cameras located strategically and get immediate information from those cameras,” she said.

Browning started working on Operation Shield in May with 17 cameras, she said, and there are now more than 1,300.

“We’re growing exponentially,” Browning said. “The idea is to blanket Atlanta with both private and public sector cameras. We want to leverage technology that’s already existing.”

She said the cameras range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000.

“We have a number of apartment complexes who have given us their feeds. We don’t have neighborhood associations as of now,” she said. “There are some technical aspects we need to consider. Cameras have to be on a professional grade video management system and have to have connectivity back to our center.”

In other words, cameras in neighborhoods need to be “city cameras,” she said, which could possibly be provided by the Atlanta Police Foundation. She said neighborhood associations interested in bringing cameras in should email her at lbrowning@atlantaga.gov.

When asked whether or not neighborhoods should instead pay police officers to patrol for more hours, Browning said it is a hard question to answer.

“I don’t want to give false hope that cameras will quell nefarious activity,” she said.

Browning said while getting more officers would be a deterrent to thieves, cameras with signage is obviously there 24-7.
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