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Fight over DeKalb redistricting will be ugly

January 21, 2011 5 comments

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