August 2019 Minutes

Cliftondale Community Club, Inc.
August 12, 2019
The Cliftondale Community Club, Inc. met August 12, 2019 at the Cliftondale Community Center. Vice President Marcus Carter presided. About 35 members and guests were present. Distinguished guests included City of South Fulton Mayor William Edwards; Councilmembers Helen Willis, Carmalitha Gumbs, and Catherine Foster-Rowell; Fulton County School Board President Linda Bryant, Board Member Kimberley Dove, and Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney, who was the featured speaker. Candidates for public office included Councilwoman Rowell of District 1; and Sojourner Marable Grimmett and Sonia Francis- Rolle to succeed Commissioner Emma Darnell in District 6.
Candidates for office were given time for a brief introduction and invited to meet with attendees after the meeting adjourned.
Harold Reid, who represents the Club at the South Fulton Parkway Alliance, reported that the 102-acre parcel at the intersection of the South Fulton Parkway and Highway 92, adjacent to Southwind subdivision and across from the Publix, is once again being considered by Union City for rezoning from General Commerce (GC) to Town Center Mixed Use (TCMU), which allows warehouses. An earlier attempt at rezoning was defeated some months ago, but the effort is underway again. It will be voted on at Union City’s August 26 planning meeting. That meeting will also consider rezonings or preliminary plats for five other parcels near the Cliftondale community.
It was announced that Cecil Moody, long-time member and brother of former Club President Bruce Moody, died recently.
Membership Committee Chair Tommie Stegall welcomed first-time visitors to the Club and invited them to become members. He explained that dues for a family membership are $25 and for families headed by a senior 65 or older $15. The money goes to support local schools and similar worthy causes.
Secretary Gayle Lesser, speaking as Treasury liaison, provided the Treasurer’s report.
The program was turned over to Dr. Looney, who introduced Philip Hammonds of Stonewall Tell Elementary and Gyimah Whitaker, superintendent for the South Learning Community.
Dr. Looney, who is newly appointed, is visiting south Fulton schools and very impressed with the students. They are polite, prepared, and focused on their work.
He noted that the System has 195,000 students. About 1,000 students a year drop out, and he has a priority of impacting students of poverty and color. In his former position he had a policy of meeting every student who announced plans to drop out and found that none of them really wanted to do so. The solution is to help them find a way to finish by wrapping services and support around students and their parents.
Education needs to start at the kindergarten level – kindergarten is now an academic year. All incoming children are assessed for school readiness skills such as vocabulary, knowing the alphabet, being able to count to 20, identifying a square, circle, and triangle, and doing “math 3” (for example, being able to add two numbers and then subtract a number from the sum). Adults and parents need to teach these skills to young children. In some schools only 11% of incoming children can do math 3, but 86% of System kindergarteners are proficient by yearend.
He said that this year he will use the System’s current strategic plan; next year he and the Board would make a new plan, focusing on “One Fulton.” He added that he is appointed, not elected – but he is appointed by the elected School Board.
Asked if the Board looks at the needs for facilities long term, Board President Bryant replied that the State’s philosophy is that a school has to be overcrowded and using trailer classrooms before a new school can be built. The System does employ a demographer and it has a long-term capital plan.
Mr. Reid commented that he would be glad to approach the State to present the case for a faster response to crowding. He added that his greatest disappointment in Fulton County government is the lack of interaction between the Board of Commissioners and the School Board.
Councilwoman Willis said that she would like the System to provide better communication to the City Council. Dr. Looney replied that the Board has just hired a communications director and the situation should improve.
Councilwoman Willis noted that the Atlanta School Board has a position on the 2020 Census’s local committee, and the Fulton Board should also.
Asked how the System develops high quality leadership to turn a school around to measure progress rather than by using the State’s standardized test scores, Dr. Looney agreed and said his job is to select and train good principals – and he will be accountable for that. He noted that nowadays parents often confront principals and teachers over discipline and grades. Dr. Looney said he will “get the teachers’ backs” in disagreements with parents. The question is whether the community and Board have the political will to stay the course. Board President Bryant said, “The Board is the ‘what’ and Dr. Looney is the ‘how’.”
Dr. Looney added that the community also must step up to give hope to kids at risk, for example by providing internships and exposure to businesses.
Ms. Rolle noted that the South Fulton Chamber of Commerce is planning a career and business expo in September and Aerotropolis is planning another in October.
An audience member commented that the community and schools need to recognize graduates who are going into the military or to technical school as well as those who are accepted to college.
Mr. Carter thanked Dr. Looney for his candid and informative presentation.
Mr. Reid announced that a city-wide zoning training workshop is planned, tentatively scheduled for August 28 at the Cliftondale Community Center. 1,400 single family building permits were issued for the City in the first six months of this year. The workshop is intended as an all-city opportunity for residents to learn how to evaluate and respond to developments proposed for their neighborhoods.
Councilwoman Gumbs said that she will be holding a follow-up on the District 2 zoning rewrite after Mr. Reid’s workshop. There will also be a follow-up meeting on the Bluffs’ application. She and Councilwoman Willis will be holding a business mixer on September 5.
Mr. Carter thanked the speakers and attendees and adjourned the meeting.
Gayle Lesser, Secretary

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