Home > Education > Fight over DeKalb redistricting will be ugly

Fight over DeKalb redistricting will be ugly

January 21, 2011

Check out this post and the comments at the Dekalb School watch blog. Apparently, Fernbank area parents are very well organized and determined to have their voices heard during what will be a contentious debate over redistricting of DeKalb schools. It seems that an e-mail circulated with talking points about how and what to say during the public input meetings happening this month. Here are the talking points:

Process Points to Follow:
1. Be on time, or better yet, be early.
2. Sit at a table (8-12 roundtops) with 1/3-1/2 Fernbank people.
3. Control the pen, control the mike, or better yet, both. Each table will have a “scribe” — be it. Each table will have a “reporter,” who will speak for 2 min. — be it.
4. When you get to “Option 3,” be clear and concise. Use Fernbank as an example of the larger theme — e.g., not breaking up long-established neighborhoods, moving kids to different programs, supporting larger schools.
5. When you hear a point that is consistent with our position, go ahead and applaud.

Substance Points to Follow:
1. We need a clear strategic vision first, before we implement redistricting for fewer, bigger schools.
2. With that vision in place, follow the Board’s own goals:
– don’t split in half historic neighborhoods, like Fernbank, where the building has supported the same neighborhood for 50+ years and the school’s many buildings have served Druid Hills for 90+ years.
– don’t move children from one kind of educational program to another, like IB. The IB program should be available to more students, not fewer. We support a larger school of 900 and providing more access to IB.
– the plan must account for future growth. Construction on hundreds of residences for Emory and CDC families is breaking ground this year. According to the Board’s own goals, those residences should be zoned to Briar Vista.
– the plan must provide safe, walkable environments and pay attention to traffic patterns, and not further clog the Clifton Corridor.
– decisions should be based on actual cost benefits, not on speculation.

Response on smaller issues:
1. We have no official position on location of magnets. If conversation at your table focuses on that, incorporate that concern into your points and MOVE ON.
2. If anyone suggests making Briar Vista a PK-K or PK-1 campus for Fernbank’s children, talk about 1100 students and families with multiple children driving back and forth and back and forth along Clifton Road during the morning rush hour. Enough said.
Finally, schools from our cluster will be there tonight in DROVES. Be there — for your friends, your neighbors, your children, and OUR school.

There were many comments to this post that were generally critical of the Fernbank parents and in particular of the talking points. I for one have no problem with it. I would much rather see people well prepared to deliver their argument, for or against, than showing up and ranting and raving based on emotions and no facts. South DeKalb parents who have a beef with the redistricting process would do well to draft a similar memo. It seems to me Fernbank parents will definitely be in the back of the minds of the school board when final decisions are made.

Here is a list of the remaining public meetings. Please try to attend one even if you don’t have a list of talking points.

McNair High School, Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Bethune Middle School, Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Stone Mountain Middle School, Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:30 PM

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  1. Dekalbite
    February 7, 2011 at 8:21 pm | #1

    Well. Just as I said, Fernbank can stay overcrowded and gets a pass on any redistricting, but the schools in South DeKalb they were for closing will be closed. Don’t tell me the Fernbank parents aren’t the most powerful group in Dekalb.

    • February 7, 2011 at 11:36 pm | #2

      Fernbank and other schools were spared any major changes, but Bob Mathis in South DeKalb was able to stave off closure, and they did it without the resources or publicity that Fernbank has. Toney ES also will remain open. Now I do not know why either of those two were spared, but it seems to me, at least in the case of Bob Mathis, that their parents and neighborhood citizens did what Fernbank, Livsey, and Dunwoody parents did; they got involved.

  2. January 27, 2011 at 11:25 am | #3

    Hi, just found this blog while searching for some redistricting info. I could not agree more with your second commenter. (GREAT argument.)

    I really hope more folks come out to support South Dekalb in this process. I am a north dekalb parent (Evansdale Elementary) and with all of the yelling and screaming up here, there are many of us who are concerned that not all the county is being heard.

    There are many folks who are concerned about what is going on only in their backyard, but I really hope that the board takes into consideration what is best for all of the kids in Dekalb.

    Thanks!

  3. Dekalbite
    January 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm | #4

    I’m afraid I have to disagree about Fernbank parents being in the right here.

    What was also in the Fernbank email was:
    “Points for Tonight at Shamrock/Druid Hills
    Everyone must attend tonight’s redistricting meeting at Shamrock/Druid Hills Middle — even if you think you’re not affected, you are — we will lose teachers, financial support, and key parental involvement. Some examples of how you will be affected? No art special, no science special, no Reflections, no Chess Club, no Hospitality chairs, no Library Committe chairs, no Ambassador leaders, no Garden Committee leaders — the list goes on and on.”

    The school they would be redistricted to (Briar Vista) has comparable academic achievement scores. The main thing Briar Vista is missing is the Fernbank name and of course the extras like yoga classes (no kidding), the Garden Club, etc. But Briar Vista is a lovely school in a safe tree lined neighborhood with very good academic achievement.

    Public education should be guaranteeing all children an equal opportunity to master the academic content in math, science, reading, writing and social studies. They should be offered a chance to appreciate music and art and get Physical Education classes that will keep them healthy. If they have special needs, they should get special services.

    Briar Vista needs extra students in order to get to the 450 students that the state will fully fund so local DeKalb taxpayers will not be picking up the charge or other schools will get less services because there is less money available.

    Briar Vista has empty seats and they have very good achievement. These very vocal group of Fernbank parents of 105 students say if DCSS will add onto Fernbank, they will absorb the Briar Vista students. Should taxpayers be asked to take on a multimillion dollar restoration so a small number of Fernbank students can keep the name of Fernbank? Here’s a link to the data that shows these Fernbank students would have virtually the same academic opportunities and achievement at Briar Vista:
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/01/fernbank-vs-briar-vista-by-numbers.html

    Neighborhood schools are being shuttered in South DeKalb while Fernbank fights against redistricting 105 students.

    Look what Fernbank parents said last year in an open letter to the Board of Education when South DeKalb schools were up for redistricting:
    “Reluctantly, we must also urge the consolidation of more than four schools. DeKalb has a long history of small neighborhood schools, an arrangement we can no longer afford. Based on the stated projected cost savings of nearly $600,000 per school, the consolidation of additional schools should realize a significant savings. And, we believe the savings would be greater when you account for shortfalls in state funding (based on 450 elementary school minimums) coupled with lower central staffing requirements to serve fewer facilities…..These are no doubt difficult times, but from adversity can come success. We urge you to retain a long-term point of view which will best position the children of DeKalb for success in the future.
    Sincerely,
    Marshall D. Orson
    Chair
    Fernbank Elementary School Council”
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/letter-from-fernbank-elementary-school.html

    Fernbank parents were fine with closing schools in South DeKalb last year and even urged the DCSS BOE to do this, but this year when redistricting visits their school, they are totally against anything that touches them. I don’t consider that a model to follow.

  4. Just Watch
    January 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | #5

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/redistricting

    This is a brief online survey. Very, very few S. DeKalb residents have answered this. There are still 8 more days, but please share this with your community and your neighbors.

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