Tech High Forced to Close

TECH HIGH SCHOOL FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 6, 2012 Massive Funding Cut Forces Successful Atlanta Charter High School to Close Its Doors Atlanta — Atlanta’s Tech High, the successful 8-year-old math-, science- and technology-oriented charter high school in the Atlanta Public Schools system, is being forced to close its doors amid an unanticipated revenue cut of 16 percent, school Board Chair Kent Antley announced today. “It is with great sadness and disappointment that the Governing Board has informed families of the unforeseen challenges this promising school has endured over the past 30 days,” Antley said. “Our talented, dedicated faculty and staff and our parents and students, who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to academic success, now face an obstacle that is impossible to overcome.” Tech High School opened its doors in 2004 in a renovated section of the SciTrek Science Museum on Piedmont Road next to the Atlanta Civic Center. There were high expectations for the school, which boasted a who’s who of supporters including the downtown business community, the high tech community, civic leaders and unanimous support from the Atlanta school board. “Like the vast majority of charter schools, Tech High has had to operate on a very tight budget,” Antley said. “Our school was especially sensitive to setting an example in demonstrating high accountability and transparency in our spending.” The Governing Board had delayed implementing next year’s teacher contracts until it received funding projections from APS. But during the summer break the school was notified, after those contracts had been signed, that a combination of factors would reduce funding another $360,000. “The state’s average funding per student is over $11,000,” Antley noted. “This school, which has overcome so much, simply cannot operate on revenues of $7,411 per student – and that does not include our capital costs. This is a tragic, saddening last financial blow from which we cannot recover.” One reason for the massive funding cut is APS’ decision to allocate unfunded pension liabilities to charter schools. Tech High, along with several other charters, disagree with the legality of the APS decision. Other charters plan to wage a legal challenge but, “Unfortunately, our families and teachers can’t put their lives on hold to wait for the legal system to resolve this issue.” The school was forced to move from the SciTrek facility after only one year when SciTrek closed its doors and the City of Atlanta would not continue the lease. The school is currently housed in a building built in 1922, which means ongoing and major maintenance expenses. That, along with the revenue cut, threatened to force a midyear closure and enormous disruption to many already at-risk students. “At all times, our faculty and staff’s greatest concern and commitment are for the best interests of our students.” “We are enormously proud of the many accomplishments of Tech High and the numerous students we have helped over eight years,” Antley said. “It has been direct reflection of the dedication of our great teachers and leadership. We are heartbroken that we will not be able to continue to be a positive contributor to Atlanta Public Schools.” Tech High had just announced a strategic partnership with the Technical College System of Georgia and Georgia Tech Research Institute focused on becoming a state and national model for teaching math, science and technology at the high school level. This partnership was going to combine a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum and problem-based learning with college and career pathway course offerings through Georgia’s technical college system. HISTORY OF TECH HIGH Tech High School opened its doors in 2004 as an independent charter high school serving students that live in the Atlanta Public Schools district. The school was born out of the determination of business, community and educational leaders in the Atlanta metropolitan area with a focused vision of successfully preparing students for post-secondary studies and a career. Tech High served ninth- to 12th graders with a culture anchored in setting high expectations and embracing and encouraging innovation. The school integrated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Tech High teachers applied cross content learning experiences through a problem-based learning format, which elevated the academic rigor and the level of engagement of students. Dr. Barbara Christmas, an experienced and respected educator, was Tech High’s first CEO. “We hired great teachers and held the students to high expectations,” said Christmas. “When the school opened, I honestly could tell parents that there was a 100 percent chance that they would have a great teacher at Tech High.” As with all charter schools, Tech High accepted all students. “We consistently had about one-third of our incoming ninth-grade students reading at the 4th or 5th grade level,” said Christmas. “Their math skills were similar.” Both the percentage of minorities and low-income students at Tech High have been higher than the average for Atlanta Public Schools. Despite these challenges, Tech High showed an amazing ability to graduate a high percentage of their students. “What I’m most proud of is that not only did we graduate over 90% of our students, but nearly all of them went on to enroll in higher education or the military,” said Christmas. Tech High highlights: • Four Graduating Classes, averaging a 93 percent graduation rate among seniors • 78 percent of the graduating class of 2011 were accepted to a two- or four-year college • Over $1.8 million in scholarships offered to the 2011 graduating class of 40 students • Some colleges Tech High alums attend: Georgia Tech, Emory, Morehouse, Spelman, Notre Dame, University of Chicago, Brandeis University, College of Wooster, North Carolina A&T, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, and Tuskegee University • Some Scholarships earned by Tech High Alums: Gates Millennium Scholarship, Posse Scholarship, HOPE Scholarship and Legacy Scholarship • Tech High has achieved AYP five out of six years the school has been measured • 2011 Academic Gold Award for Greatest Gains from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Partnerships: Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has been assisting Tech High in implementing a systems engineering course to provide all ninth-graders a foundation in problem solving and critical thinking. GTRI was also planning to introduce exciting laboratories to Tech High students via interactive linkages to demonstrate how real world problems are solved. Three teachers were hired by GTRI this summer to develop problem-based learning strategies to bring to the classrooms in August. In the business world, Tech High had developed a partnership with Siemens Industry, Inc., that spans from sponsoring the Tech High robotics team to hosting guest speakers in career fields in engineering, information technology and communications. The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) has provided summer internships for Tech High students with their membership companies. In an effort to utilize technology to create a student-centered, inquiry driven learning environment, Tech High had adopted a one to one Nook® Tablet program in partnership with Barnes & Noble. These are a few of the partnerships and relationships that the school had developed and cultivated over the years. Tech High’s CEO Steven Walker expressed, “Leveraging resources through partnerships enhances the learning experiences of our students and we are grateful to have a network of partners that are willing to be actively engaged in Tech High’s curriculum.” For more information, contact Kent Antley (Board Chair) or Kelly McCutchen (Board member): Kenneth (Kent) Antley Miller & Martin PLLC Suite 800 1170 Peachtree Street, N.E. Atlanta, GA 30309 (404) 962-6435 moc.nitramrellimnull@yeltnak Kelly McCutchen 404-791-2650 gro.ycilopaigroegnull@nehctuccmk