Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is This Really About Access?

The following was posted under comments at Dunwoody School Daze and when I saw it I thought this would make for an excellent blog post (of course it was posted as Anonymous).  If you are the author of this post, email me.  If I ever print T-shirts for Dunwoody Talk I want you to have one.

Demographics for Dunwoody Cluster schools (including Hightower since it is part of the Dunwoody cluster)

Demographics (percentage)
Austin                                  White 70, Asian 15, Black 8, Hispanic 3
Chesnut                              White 44, Asian 8, Black 30, Hispanic 10
Hightower                          White 4, Asian 6, Black 12, Hispanic 76
Kingsley                              White 41, Asian 7, Black 21, Hispanic 25
Vanderlyn                           White 75, Asian 15, Black 4, Hispanic 2

Free Lunch Data
Austin                                  4%
Chesnut                              31%
Hightower                          97%
Kingsley                              41%
Vanderlyn                           2%
 State of Georgia              53%

The above information was taken from the website data.  Information for Dunwoody elementary was not listed (probably because most sites listing schools would not consider it an elementary school).  I have assumed that the same percentages will apply once the Dunwoody Elementary School kids are included with their home school.

As you can see Vanderlyn and Austin are majority white.  No secret.  Hightower is mostly Hispanic, no secret.  Chesnut and Kingsley are the most diverse, no secret.  Seeing how this data has been available for a long time, I wonder why we are just now hearing about 'access' to Vanderlyn and Austin?  Where was the S.O.W. posse last month?  Last year?  Why were they not demanding more Hispanics and blacks and apartment units be zoned to their school?  Surely a school board member could have arranged for more modular classrooms.  In summary, the families feeding into Austin and Vanderlyn are NOT poor immigrants fresh out of Ellis island; they are educated, their students perform well in school, and they are not receiving free and/or reduced lunch.

Now that the school district has decided to redraw attendance lines all of a sudden people want more diverse schools.  

Not since the selection/announcement of the July 4th Parade Grand Marshall (congrats to Mr. Dick Williams) has the Dunwoody community been on edge as to the release of the secret Vertical Map. The Vertical Map has been only been seen by a few people.  Like the Holy Grail, the Vertical Map is surrounded by controversy and secrecy.  But know this - once revealed, I guarantee the very involved moms who have created this fine piece of topological history have miraculously drawn their own neighborhoods into the new VV map.  What is the VV map?  Vertical Vanderlyn, of course.  To ignore all rules of geographic proximity, one must craft new data, new criteria, new everything.  I expect original signed copies of the VV map to be sold at the next PTA art auction, bringing in more than 'principal for the day' bids.

OK, back to the data.

Apartment Data
Austin                   40% 
Vanderlyn            15%
Other Schools       Unknown    the above schools are the ones most talked about currently due to the fact that they will not have apartments with the current two proposals for redistricting.  If this information is available, please email me and I will update.  I didn't feel like driving around Dunwoody charting which numbers were multi-family homes vs. single family homes. 

It's my understanding that housing type is currently data that is not utilized within the schools for class placement, etc.  Why should it be criteria for creating school boundaries?

OK, so what does this information tell us?   

Currently Austin is 40% apartments and only has 4% eligible for free or reduced lunch.  This tells me that those living in apartments are not economically disadvantaged.  Isn't that the reason for the word access that floats around the community currently?  I'm guessing these are families that choose their housing type.  Maybe they don't want to worry about a lawn.  Maybe they don't want to worry about repairs and maintenance of a house.  Maybe they only have one car and one parent walks to work at Perimeter and leaves the car for the spouse (wow-that's environmentally conscious as well).  Maybe they don't feel comfortable buying a house currently with the housing market as it is in the United States.  The reasons are endless.  It appears to me that they are just professionals who have chosen a different housing type.  Not everyone believes the American dream is home ownership.

I looked up the current rental rates at two of the apartments on Chamblee Dunwoody Road near the mall.  The  Dunwoody Gables 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartments currently rents in the range of $905-$1,510.  The Jefferson at Perimeter 2 bedroom, 2 bath currently rents in the range of $903-1368; while a 3 bedroom, 2 bath rents in the range of $1213-$1571.    I know some of you are thinking that is close to or exceeds a  mortgage payment in a good bit of Dunwoody.  So why are we debating if apartments should be a criteria for drawing of our school lines?

Austin's current student population is 40% apartments.    These multi-family home students are included in the number below of 98.6% meets + exceed the state standards.  I also know that these families do in fact volunteer and make the school successful.

So, what if it really isn't about housing type and that is just a code word for race and culture?  I have no idea of the race of those living in multi-family housing.  I do know that minority families reside in single family homes, therefore the multi-family housing percentages of 40% and 15% listed above wouldn't represent an accurate percentage of minorities in apartments.  The number would in fact be lower.

It appears those screaming loudest during this process are those being zoned from Vanderlyn to Dunwoody Elementary.  You hear comments of "it will be a Title 1 school".  Not hardly.  With the two plans presented for redistricting the reduced to free lunch category won't exceed 20%.  This percentage is well below the percentage of Kingsley and Chesnut.  We don't hear them screaming to revise the lines based on race or housing type.  I think they realize that geography is dictating the students for their school.

Families "self-segregate" in Dunwoody, Dekalb County, and all over the United States.  No time here to get into the lawsuits and court rulings from the past 30 years in DeKalb, but understand the courts finally realized people will  self-segregate and no court can modify that fact.  DeKalb School Watch knows much more about that than most.  Look at the demographics for Hightower - they are 76% Hispanic.  The county didn't place them there; they chose to live there to live around others who share their language and culture.  The same can be said for parts of Dekalb County where a school is 75% or higher black or 65% or higher white or any other demographic category.

Let's review the criteria for redistricting used throughout the entire county.
·        Geographic proximity
·        Instructional capacity
·        Projected enrollment

·        Safety and traffic patterns
·        Previous redistricting
·        Intact neighborhoods
·        Special programs
·        Conditions of facility
·        School feeder alignment
·        Efficient and economical operations
·        Other criteria, to be publicly disclosed at or prior to a final decision by the Board

The two proposed plans (central and decentral) I feel meet the above stated criteria.  I do think that students should not leave the Dunwoody cluster and go to Chamblee.  I feel that one plan needs revised.  I understand that this will probably make Peachtree Middle and Dunwoody High slightly over-crowded but I can live with that currently. 

If the county feels it necessary to have housing type as added criteria for redistricting, then it is an item for the entire county.  Is it then a primary or secondary criteria?  Does it "trump" geographic proximity?  Again, take a look at the map created to show a one mile radius around each of the Dunwoody schools.  See my previous post

If the school system uses a new magic VV map, making changes to the consultants maps, based on types of housing, that is where you find lawsuit territory.  Simply put, the school system cannot make zone changes based on housing for Dunwoody only, then use other criteria in other areas of the county. I'm sure Dan Drake, Ramona Tyson, and the board know that 'distribute multi family' really means 'don't put too many apartment kids in my new school'.

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