Board chair: miscommunication over morning pledge at charter school

Administrators at an Atlanta elementary charter school said there were some miscommunications when the Pledge of Allegiance would be said each day.

It was previously announced Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School would end a group pledge at their morning meeting but would allow for it in the classrooms at a later time of day.

A letter attributed to Elementary Campus Principal Lara Zelski dated Aug. 7 read:

"Dear ANCS Families and Friends,

"I hope the second week of the new school year is going well for you and your family. It has been so nice starting our morning meeting this week and really feeling like we are in full swing with our regular schedule now. Remember, if you are unable to make it to morning meeting, you can see what's going on by visiting the morning meeting blog.

"One change that we made to our morning meeting agenda this year is that we will not be including the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Students will continue to lead the meeting by asking our community to stand to participate in our Wolf Pack Chant together. Students will also be given the opportunity to say the pledge at another point during the school day within their classroom. This decision was made in an effort to begin our day as a fully inclusive and connected community. Over the past couple of years it has become increasingly obvious that more and more of our community were choosing to not stand and/or recite the pledge. There are many emotions around this and we want everyone in our school family to start their day in a positive manner. After all, that is the whole purpose of our morning meeting.

"Over the next few months, teachers and the K-5 leadership team will be working with students to create a school pledge that we can say together at morning meeting. This pledge will focus on students' civic responsibility to their school family, community, country and our global society. I will keep you informed of the progress with this. I am really looking forward to what our students create.

"As I mentioned in my last courier letter, the first six weeks of school is when we spend a good bit of time creating a strong and cohesive school family. Teachers teach the routines and procedures for the classroom and around the school to foster a consistent and safe environment. They lead students in team building activities and games to build community. Additionally, we review our Guiding Principles and discuss how we follow them throughout the school. We do this in an effort to set clear expectations for how we will treat each other and behave here at school and to promote a sense of safety and togetherness. The teachers and students have been actively engaged in this work since day one.

"If you have any questions, as always, feel free to contact me. Have a wonderful remainder of your week!"

After the story aired on FOX 5 News at 5 Thursday, the school board chair issued a statement which would reinstate the Pledge as part of the morning assembly routine.

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) Governing Board Chair Lia Santos wrote:

"Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School has and will continue to provide students with an opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each school day. In the past, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited during our all-school morning meeting, but at the start of the school year, the daily practice was moved to classrooms. This change was done in compliance with state law [O.C.G.A. 20-2-310 (c)(1)] and aligned Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School with most other schools in the state who also say the Pledge of Allegiance in individual classrooms. However, it appears there was some miscommunication and inconsistency in the rollout. Starting next week, we will return to our original format and provide our students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge during the all-school morning meeting.

"At ANCS, our priority is to provide our students with a safe and dynamic learning environment where they cultivate a love for learning, develop self-knowledge, and are constantly challenged to excel. We support our students in their growth and see it as our duty as educators to respect their First Amendment rights.

"We are working together with the school administration to ensure we address concerns and feedback from our school family, while continuing to uphold and support the rights of every member of our school community."

According to the school's website, the Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School is a K-8 charter school with two campuses formed by the merger of two successful charter schools that have been operating in the Grant Park and Ormewood Park neighborhoods since 2002.