Box 6, Folder 1, Document 15

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Box 6, Folder 1, Document 15

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A PROGRESS REPORT

to the

LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION FROM DEKALB AND FULTON COUNTIES



by the
LOCAL EDUCATION COMMISSION OF

ATLANTA AND FULTON COUNTY

November, 1966
Tentative

THE LOCAL EDUCATION COMMISSION OF

ATLANTA AND FULTON COUNTY
Purpose

This document reports progress made by the Atlanta and Fulton
County Education Commission in developing detailed plans for creating
a new school district to take the place of the Atlanta and Fulton
County districts as instructed by the General Assembly of Georgia when
it extended the life of the Commission in 1966. The document consists
of decisions and plans which the Commission has made for creating a
single school district, an outline of remaining tasks of the Commis-
sion, provisions which have been made for completion of these tasks,

a statement of budget needs, and a time schedule.
Background

Reference to the previous work of the Commission is necessary
for the purpose of understanding properly this report. The commission
was created by an act of the General Assembly adopted by the 1964 ses-
sion which gave the Commission responsibility "to study the desirabil-
ity and feasibility of combining the school systems of Fulton County
and the City of Atlanta, including the portion thereof lying in
DeKalb County: to provide that said Commission may draft a plan or
plans for the combining of such school systems and submit same to

members of the General Assembly from Fulton and DeKalb Counties,"
The tasks assigned to the Commission turned out to be difficult
and complex requiring studies involving law, economics, public finance,
school costs, population analysis, school personnel, welfare provisions,
school district structure, educational needs, existing educational pro-
grams, and curriculum development. These studies analyze current
status and project probable future developments. The studies provided
the information required by the Commission to execute its assignment.

The first report of the Commission; an interim one, was released
in January of 1965. It briefly reviewed the substantial history of
local concern for how education should be organized in the Atlanta-
Fulton County area as reported in various studies, some essentially
educational in nature while others dealt broadly with problems and
issues faced by the growing Atlanta metropolitan area. The major con-
tribution of this report was the careful identification, description,
and analysis of advantages and disadvantages of a single school dis-
trict in place of the Atlanta and Fulton County districts. The report
pointed out the difficulties to be overcome in creating a single dis-
trict. It also described the proposed single district and suggested
a tentative budget for completing the assignment of the Commission.

In February of 1966, the Commission released a report entitled,
“District Reorganization for Better Schools in Atlanta and Fulton

County." Building on the interim report summarized above, this docu-
ment inquired into the effect on educational programs of transition to
a single district, the effects on financing education and listed a

number of important questions concerning the proposed district for

which answers were provided, With the background thus developed, the

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Commission was in position to reach a decision on whether or not it
should recommend a single school district.

The decision of the Commission was that a single district should
be created to take the place of the present Atlanta and Fulton County
districts. It found that the consolidation of the Atlanta and Fulton
County districts was less desirable than dissolving them and creating
a new district in their stead inasmuch as the disadvantages of neither
district would need to be perpetuated, while the advantages of each
could be retained. The report included seventeen other recommendations
which defined required legal steps to be taken in creating a single
district, described how the new district should be organized, and sug-
gested financial provisions. The report then defined twenty-nine
transition tasks to be undertaken concerning primarily school programs
of the present districts. A Public Information Services Program was
suggested to help achieve broad public understanding of the proposed
new district. The report ended with an analysis of recent develop-
ments of significance to the school district reorganization issue.

The report was presented to the Legislative Delegation of DeKalb
and Fulton counties before it was released. The Delegation accepted
the report and requested additional information on current and pro-
jected school revenues for the Atlanta and Fulton Ccunty School dis-
tricts, a further analysis and comparison of expenditure patterns of
the two districts, a projection of school revenue and expenditure
patterns for the two districts, and comparisons of projected revenue
patterns and expenditure patterns of the two districts with the pro-

posed single district. Requested also was a comparison of current
educational programs of the two districts and the comparison of these
programs with those projected for the new district. Finally, the
Delegation asked that the necessary steps for establishing and placing
in operation the proposed district be spelled out in a definite vattern
which would serve as a blueprint for transition.

A report issued in January of 1966 provided the requested informa-
tion except for the actual transition blueprint. The latter is the major
concern of this report.

The first phase of the work of the Commission for the present year
consisted of defining and outlining as specifically as possible the
various tasks which should be undertaken and completed in establishing
the proposed district. Responsibilities for completing these tasks
were allocated and necessary authorizations were made accordingly.
Using this outline as a guide, the Commission has reached important
decisions and made substantial plans for creating the proposed new
school district. These decisions and plans are presented in the re-

maining pages of this report.
Decisions and Plans

Once the Commission decided to recommend a single district, it
then turned its attention to the tasks which would have to be com-
pleted in carrying out this recommendation. These tasks may be cate-
gorized as follows:

1. The legal work required to dissolve the present districts

and to create the proposed new district.
2. The educational planning necessary in order to assure
effective transition from the present districts to the
proposed new district.

3. Suggestions on the election, terms of office of board
members, and initial role of the Board of Education for
the new district.

4. A program for developing adequate public understanding of
the proposed new district and the reasons which support its
creation.

5. Allocations of responsibilities for getting done the neces-

sary tasks.

Legal Work

Mr. A. C. Latimer, Attorney for the Atlanta Board of Education,
and Mr. James P. Groton, Attorney for the Fulton County Board of Educa-
tion, have been retained by the Commission to be responsible for the
necessary legal work. The logic of this decision is obvious since
their experience and present responsibilities will serve them well in
this undertaking.

Extensive research for the purpose of identifying, analyzing, and
clarifying a voluminous body of legislation of both general and local
dimensions regarding education in the Atlanta and Fulton County school
districts is underway. Relevant court decisions are being subjected
to the same type of study. There is no other way to ascertain the
requirements for dissolving the two present districts. When this has

been done, legislation will be prepared for dissolving the districts.
Then, new legislation essential to establishing and maintaining the
proposed district will be prepared along with required constitutional
provisions.

Attorneys Latimer and Groton have prepared a detailed outline

of work which must be done before the new constitutional provisions
and legislation can be drafted. This outline consists of fourteen
different subjects which are being considered separately. The study
of each subject involves:

1. identifying and analyzing existing laws and regulations
pertaining to the Atlanta and Fulton County school systems
which will have to be considered, amended, or repealed;

2. determining the legal problems which require special atten-
tion, and

3. establishing the end results to be accomplished by the new
legislation.

The fourteen subjects and a brief paragraph on progress achieved

follow:

1. General powers.--Present statutes, regulations, and court
decisions to be considered, amended, or repealed have been identified
as have problem areas to be considered. The new legislation is to
cover powers generally appropriate to school systems under the Georgia
Constitution and such other powers as are required to borrow, to
contract with other governmental bodies, to sue and be sued, to operate
school buses, to accept donations, bequests, and so forth, to operate
educational programs from kindergarten through college, including

vocational schools, relationships with adjoining school systems, and

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to establish a new district that is a political subdivision of the

State.

2. Local taxation for schools.--Present statutes, regulations,



and court decisions to be considered, amended, or repealed have been
identified as have problem areas to be considered. The new legislation
is to cover uniform property tax assessments throughout the district,
provide for elimination of homestead exemptions, establishment of
annual millage, tax levies, tax collections, and tax sources other

than the property tax.

3, Revenues from sources other than local school tax.--Present



statutes, regulations, and court decisions to be considered, amended,
or repealed have been identified as well as problem areas to be con-

sidered. The new legislation is to cover authorization of appropria-
tions from city and county governments, intangible taxes, transporta-

tion funds, and escheats.

4. Power to increase bonded debt and assumption of bonded debt.--
Present statutes, regulations, and court decisions to be considered,
amended, or repealed have been identified. Problem areas which have
to be dealt with have been defined. New legislation is to cover power
to levy property tax, millage limitation, restrictions on retirement
of debt, assumption of county school debts, and assumption of city

school debts.
5. Repealer.--Present statutes, regulations, and court decisions
to be considered, amended, or repeaied have been identified. Problem
areas to be considered have been defined. The new legislation is to
repeal or amend the Fulton County one and one-half mill constitutional
amendment and Fulton County constitutional amendments on millage limi-

tation, bonded debt limitation, and pensions.

6. Method of adoption.--Questions to be considered include
whether or not a single constitutional amendment will suffice or if
multiple amendments will be required; provision for courses of action
if multiple amendments are required and some are adopted while others
are not. whether the amendment(s) is to be general or local, what vote
is required, who is eligible to vote, and how the ballot should be

worded.

7. Succession to school property and contract rights.--Present
statutes, regulations, and court decisions to be considered, amended,
or repealed have been identified. Problem areas tc be considered have
been defined. New legislation is to cover the transfer of county
school properties to the new district and the transfer of city proper-

ties to the new district.

8. Assumption of liabilities and contract obligations. -=-Present
statutes, regulations, and court decisions to be considered, amended,
or repealed have been identified. It has been ascertained that no
notable problem areas exist under this subiect. New legislation to
be passed is to cover debts other than bonds, obligations, liabilities,

and State School Building Authority lease payments.

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9. Personnel.--Present statutes, regulations, and court decisions
to be considered, amended , or repealed have been identified. It has been
determined that no notable problem areas exist under this subject. Now
legislation is to cover contracts, pay scales, tenure, and fringe bene-

fits.

10. Boundaries of the new district.--Present statutes, regulations,



and court decisions to be considered, amended, or repealed have been
identified. It has been ascertained that- no notable problem areas
exist under this subject. The new legislation is to provide that all
of Fulton County and the part of Atlanta which is in DeKalb County are
to be included in the new district. Provision for the addition of new

territory and other schools is to be included.

11. Board of Education.~--The present statutes, regulations, and
court decisions to be considered, amended, or repealed have been identi-
fied. Problem areas to be considered have been defined. The new legis-
lation is to cover composition of the Board, eligibility for Board
membership, term of office, election districts, powers, duties, respon-
sibilities, compensation, and changes in composition and size of election
districts. Provision is to be made for terms of office of initial board

members.

12. Superintendent of schools.~-Present statutes, regulations, and
court decisions to be considered, amended, or repealed have been identi-
fied. It has been established that no notable problem areas exist under
this subject. New legislation is to cover criteria of eligibility, pro-
vide for appointment by the Board, determine the term of office, and

enumerate powers, duties, and resporsibilities.

=9.


13. Transition provisions.~-New legislation is to provide for an
interim board of education to consist of the Atlanta and Fulton County
boards, interim administration provisions, and an effective date for the
new district to become operative. The legislation is to prescribe a
schedule of steps to be taken if the constitutional amendment(s) is

adopted.

14. Pensions.--Present statutes, regulations, and court decisions
to be considered, amended, or repealed have been identified. Problem
areas which must be considered have been defined. New legislation is
to prescribe for either a new pension system or membership in the
State teachers’ retirement system, merging of the county school pen-
sion system into the new system, transition of city school employees
from the city general pension system, and authority to receive contri-
butions for pension funds from city and county governments.
Educational Planning Necessary to Assure
Orderly and Effective Transition from

the Present Two Districts to the
Proposed Single District

The transition from two districts to one is to be as orderly and
systematic as is possible without interruption or dislocation of edu-
cational programs and personnel (student, professional, and other).

To achieve this purpose requires a great amount of planning involving
the development and approval of new policies and procedures. Major
areas of decision and policy development have been defined as outlined
below. It should be noted that much of this planning is to be expressed

in the legal framework of the proposed new district, some of which is

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reflected in the legal work as reported above. Certain other aspects

of planning and policy are not necessary for the legal framework, some

of which appropriately wait until a decision is reached on whether or

not the proposed district is to be established. If voters reject the
new district, this planning will not be necessary; if they approve, there
will be time to complete such planning before the new district becomes
operative. The areas for policy and procedure development and achileve-
ments under each area are listed below. Minor repetition occurs because

of the need to give direction to the legal work already described.

District organization and administration.--The new district is to



include all of Fulton County and that part of Atlanta which lies in
DeKalb County. The district is to have a board of education of nine
members elected at large by the qualified voters of the district in a
non-partisan election for terms of six years, one from each of nine
subdivisions of the district of approximately the same number of per-
sons. The legislation is to prescribe how the subdivisions are to be
formed and how they are to be re~divided as population changes require.
Three members of the initial board shall serve full six-year terms,
three members shall serve four-year terms, and three members shall
serve two-year terms as determined by the Fulton County Grand Jury.
Thereafter, board members are to be elected for six-year terms in
regular school board elections as existing terms of members expire.
Vacancies in board membership are to be filled by appointment of the
board until the next regular school board election at which time un-

expired terms will be filled by the voters.

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In the event the constitutional amendment(s) is approved, the
Atlanta and Fulton County School District board members are to serve
as the board of education for the new district until the new board is
elected and can take office.

Board members are to be paid $300 per month with the chairman being

paid an additional $50 per month.

Provision for transition.--If the proposed new district is ap~-



proved by the electorate, a transition committee is to be established
immediately by the Atlanta and Fulton County School District boards
acting as a single board upon the joint recommendation of the superin-
tendents of the two districts. This committee is to be responsible for
the many plans and procedures concerned with education programs which
a smooth transition will reauire. The committee is to include the two
superintendents of schools, the chairman of each board of education,
the fiscal officers of each school system, the assistant superintendent
for instruction of each school system and such other individuals as
may seem appropriate. The transition plans worked out by this com-
mittee are to be approved by the boards of education.

If the single school district is approved, the two school systems
are to continue as at present for the balance of the school year in
which approval occurs and an additional calendar year in order te allow
time for completion of needed transition plans.

The board of education for the new district, if approved, is to be
elected as soon as possible after approval and should formally organize
itself without delay and proceed at once with the selection of a super-

intendent of schools. The superintendent is to be employed and is to

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begin his work as far in advance of the creation of the new school

district as is possible.

The superintendent of schools.--The superintendent is to be ap-
pointed by the board of education and given such powers as are neces~
sary to act as the chief executive officer of the school district.

His term of office, compensation, and other benefits shall be establish-

ed by the board of education.

Financial provisions.--The proposed new district is to be fiscally
independent. While major local support is to come from the property
tax, provision is to be made for local support from other forms of
taxation.

Bonding capacity of the new school district is to be 10 per cent
of the assessed valuation of taxable property.

The homestead exemption in Fulton County is to be abolished.

Assessments of property for school tax purposes is to be uniform
and in accordance with legal provisions.

Legal provisions and policies of the new school district are to
permit full utilization of financial support from state, federal, and
other sources.

Dr. R. L. Johns of the University of Florida has been employed to
recommend provisions for financing the proposed new school district
and to develop guides and procedures for purchasing and financial
accounting and for preparation of the annual school budget. Dr. Johns

is now working on this assignment.

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Personnel.--Dr. Willard S. Elsbree, Teachers College, Columbia
University, has been employed to develop salary schedules for profes-
sional and other personnel of the proposed school district, a retire-
ment system or systems, policies regarding tenure, sick leave, vacation,
leaves of absence for professional growth and others as needed, develop
a system of personnel records for professional and other personnel, and
propose a method of combining the two central office staffs. Dr. Els-

bree is working on this assignment.

Curriculum.--It is necessary to determine the various curricula to
be offered by the proposed school district, develop policies for selec-
tion and distribution of instructional materials, recommend policies
regarding expansion of school programs with special reference to
junior colleges, vocational and technical education, and adult educa-
tion, determine the special professional personnel to be provided such
as school librarians, school psychologists, counselors, and reading
specialists, develop plans for kindergartens for schools now in the
Fulton County District and make recommendations concerning teacher loads,
including pupil-teacher ratio. Work in this area has not gone beyond

definition of what is to be undertaken.

Pupils.--A system of records for pupil accounting is to be develop-
ed for the proposed district and recommendations concerning the visiting

teacher program. These tasks are yet te be undertaken.

Services.--Decisions are to be made on the kinds and amounts of
services to be provided by the school district in areas such as trans-

portation, food and health. How these are to be provided is to be

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suggested. The number and kinds of nonprofessional personnel to be
employed by the new school district such as secretaries, lunchroom
workers, and custodians is to be determined. Plans for storing and
handling textbooks and other instructional supplies are to be worked
out also.

This is another area of planning which, except for definition and

direction, can await a decision on the fate of the proposed district.

Maintenance and operation.--Policies are to be developed regarding



kinds, numbers, types, and levels of competence needed by personnel in
maintenance and operation: policies and procedures concerning main~-
tenance and operation programs: policies and procedures concerning
work assignments and responsibilities.

These policies and procedures can await development until the
fate of the proposed district has been established.

Initial Role of the Proposed
New Board of Education



Early responsibilities of the new board of education have been
touched on in the section above. The new board is to be elected as
soon as possible and is to begin functioning as a board immediately
thereafter. As indicated previously, its early major responsibility
will be the selection of a school superintendent for the new district.
When this has been done, the superintendent is to assume responsibility
for recommending the many policies and procedures which must be worked
out before the new district becomes operational. The transition com-

mittee referred to earlier will have done much preliminary work along

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these lines and will undoubtedly recommend to the superintendent many
of the needed policies.
Developing Public Understanding
of the Proposed New District

A well-informed public is essential to reaching a wise decision on
the school district issue. Therefore, a systematic, comprehensive,
carefully coordinated program to develop and distribute among all citi-
zens adequate information on the district reorganization plan and the
reasons which support it is needed. The Commission report which develops
the arguments for and against a single school district should be made
available to citizens and its contents widely publicized. Mass media
of communication are to be employed to assist in developing interest
and public understanding. Newspaper coverage is to be widely employed.
Both radio and television are to be used extensively. Arguments for
and against the proposed district should be presented through these
media. Presentations to civic clubs, parent-teacher associations, and
other formal groups are to be stimulated. Many informed citizens are
to be employed in this program, pitteens representing all walks of life.
A committee of leaders in community affairs is to be charged with re-
sponsibility for organizing and coordinating this program. The com-
mittee is to be appointed by the boards of education upon recommendation

of the superintendents of schools.
Pemalning Tasks

The major unfinished task is completion of the necessary legal work.

While a great deal of this has already been done, the needed legislation

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remains to be drafted. This cannot be done until the extensive research
on existing statutes, regulations, and court decisions has been completed
and questions arising therefrom have been answered.

Roughly one year is needed for finishing this task.

The work in finance which Dr. R. L. Johns is doing should be com-
pleted within six months.

‘Retirement provisions, tenure, sick leave, leaves of absence,
salary schedules, personnel records, and a plan for combining the two
central office staffs being developed by Dr. Willard Elsbree should be
completed within six months.

Curriculum studies, developing pupil accounting provisions, decid-
ing on transportation, food, health, and other services to be provided.
and provisions for maintenance and operation need not progress much be-
yond the present planning stages until it is known whether or not the
proposed district is to be created. As indicated above, the machinery
for discharing these steps has been defined and can be put in motion on

short notice.

Budget

To be developed.

Motivating Assumption of the Commission

The first decision of the Commission was that the sole criterion
by which it would determine its recommendation on the issue of school
district organization in Atlanta and Fulton County is what will best

serve the educational welfare of those to be educated in Atlanta and

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