Monday, January 24, 2011

Vanderlyn Campus

In a bid to become the largest education institution in Dunwoody, a small group of dedicated mothers (rumor puts the group at three members, aka the Vandy Trio) have put together a plan to expand the Vanderlyn campus by staging a hostile take over of Womack Road's Dunwoody Elementary School.  Currently Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) with over 10,000 students, is the largest institution of learning in Dunwoody.

I read through the proposal of the Vanderlyn expansion and it reminded me of something.  Take a look here, nearly 18 months ago I posted the following: (please be advised I posted these options as a joke.  But the Vanderlyn model is no joke to some people) Make sure to read the comments associated with that post as well.

The following was posted in August 2009

Dunwoody Elementary School Cluster Options:

I received the latest enrollment numbers and things are about where I predicted a year ago. The school system knew what to expect for the most part as their projections were not too far off. The new school on Womack Road, Dunwoody Elementary, is about 25% vacant. Yep, the new school that no one wanted to attend a year ago has one in every four seats open. Vanderlyn numbers are a bit higher than DeKalb thought they'd be. Vanderlyn is 134% capacity with only grades K-3. Austin is 117% capacity without their 4th and 5th graders. Both these schools will continue to see growth the next few years.

In the following essay I'll reference Vanderlyn a good bit. I have many friends with kids at Vanderlyn and I think the school does a great job. But I have to use Vanderlyn as ground zero on the elementary school issue. Actually, ground zero would be somewhere south of Womack Road. The DeKalb School System has talked of years for the need to redistrict. Every school district in the country that experiences growth redistricts. Locally, Cobb does it without much complaint. They use professional planners who come in, map it out, and leave. No ifs, ands, or buts. People accept the wisdom and move on.
But the folks who were zoned out of Vanderlyn in Dr. Lewis' 2007 redistricting plan were none to happy. Forget about those tame town hall meetings over health care you see on the news, the crowd zoned out of Vanderlyn got aggressive, took action, and helped Dr. Lewis come up with a plan that would affect everyone.

The folks who were staying at Vanderlyn under a redistricting plan did not want to rock the Vanderlyn boat. They sat on their hands and covered their mouths. A small vocal group from Austin supported the redistricting, but they were no match for the power of those being moved out of Vanderlyn. For the most part Chesnut and Kingsley parents sat on the sidelines.

This weekend I assembled a leading group of scholars, urban planners, politicians, and Farmhousers for a special think-tank on the elementary school issue. We did not focus on middle school or high school, as folks in Dunwoody seem willing to ‘accept’ what is dished out in those years.

Dunwoody is fixated on elementary schools. Keep in mind it is the middle school years that truly shape a child’s future character. Also know high school studies (not your elementary school) will dictate your college or trade school options. Ignoring the fact that all Dunwoody public school kids will meet in 6th grade and stay together until graduation, Dunwoody always chats up the elementary schools. Perhaps this is because newer parents (those with younger kids) only see what is in their near future, or because they only plan to use the public school for elementary school before heading off to private school (When one looks at the number of 5th graders compared to 1st and 2nd graders every year, it is clear to notice kids begin to leave public schools by 5th grade).

I understand the importance of elementary school. It’s here kids build on the foundation parents started at home, before outsourcing the education of their children. But many in Dunwoody ignore the total picture. Or, as I alluded to earlier, many are here (Dunwoody) solely for the elementary schools.
Plan #1 (The NEW Academy)
Lots of folks want their kids(s) to attend Vanderlyn. They will accept trailers, long car-pool lines, rowdy PTA meetings, and more trailers.

Plan #1 is to have only grades kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd at Vanderlyn, finally getting the aged school to 100% capacity. The name of the school will change from Vanderlyn to Vanderlyn Primary. After successfully completing 2nd grade kids will move on to Vanderlyn Academy.

Vanderlyn Academy will be 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. All 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders residing in the Austin, Chesnut, and Vanderlyn zones will attend Vanderlyn Academy.

Hold on, Rick. Where is Vanderlyn Academy and why are my kids not there now? Well, the school on Womack will have a name change.

That school started as ‘The Academy’. Some people were offended by this name as it indicated to be some sort of elite school. Dr. Lewis came up with the nifty ‘Academy’ label in an attempt to fool parents whose kids were being yanked from their neighborhood school. Kids from Kingsley took offense, as did DeKalb If there are to be any true ‘academy’ schools, they had better be in Mr. Cunningham’s district. 

The school on Womack was then named Dunwoody Elementary. This is a recycled school name as the original Dunwoody Elementary was in the building where the Spruill Arts Center and Stage Door players hang out (adjoins the Dunwoody library). Well, DeKalb did say this new school would be LEED certified. Perhaps part of that process includes using recycled school names as well.

Who can argue with the name Vanderlyn Academy? Apartment rental rates will double as will home values across the cluster (except for you folks at Kingsley).

Plan #2 (Special K)
Plan #2 is not just a simple name change. In this plan, every kid in Dunwoody will attend Vanderlyn! How can we do that? Well, Vanderlyn will become a kindergarten only school. This way everyone will share the magic and all property values will stabilize. After kindergarten everyone goes back to their home school except for the native Vanderlyn kids. They will get the Womack Road School. As in Plan #1, the Womack Road School will be called Vanderlyn Academy.
Plan #3 (The Mixer)
This plan is truly a hybrid in diversity, transportation, and aged-base segregation. As in plan #2, all Dunwoody kids attend Vanderlyn for kindergarten. The group will move on to Austin for 1st grade, and then pack up the book bags for 2nd grade at Chesnut. Kingsley and Hightower get to share in this plan as Kingsley will host 4th grade for the cluster with Hightower hosting the entire 5th grade. Under this plan the new school on Womack road will sit vacant. This will suit some as many have wisely said that DeKalb built a $20 million dollar school that no one wants to attend. The school could perhaps be leased to some sort of flea market group. And the Dunwoody Farmer’s market could set up in the parking lot on Wednesday’s.
Plan #4

This plan is just plain silly. It had no thought put into and no research to support it, unlike the professionally engineered plans mentioned above. This plan is really out there, but try to stay with me.
DeKalb County Schools hires an independent urban planning firm. The partners, managers, and staff of this firm should have no personal or political connections to anyone in DeKalb County. This urban planning firm would be hired to take a look at the current situation within the Dunwoody cluster, and to analyze future growth. They’ll consider infrastructure, traffic patterns, school inventory, population growth, and take a look to see where all these kids live. They won’t be sharing a drink with the PTA moms at d’Vine. They won’t be interested to know what neighborhoods share a swim/tennis. And they will not care if your friend is on the DeKalb School Board. Nor will they care about political contributions, job offers for spouses or other relatives made by a parent, or anything else.

As do 99% of American school children, Dunwoody students would attend a K-5 school.
The firm would first plot the location of every school-aged (K-5) child’s home in Dunwoody. This data would assist the firm when creating each school zone. The firm would create the zone to keep capacity at each school as close to 100% as possible. The urban planning firm would craft a redistricting plan that would:

1. Minimize commute time for students

a. Students would attend the school closest to their home, with some exceptions due to set boundaries for each school

2.                     b. Family income, race, religion, and type of home (single family/multi family, apartment, condo,    etc), and test-taking ability would not be factors in deciding in what school you will be zoned.

After the firm releases their findings to the public, a couple of meetings would be held to handle any questions residents would have. No whining will be permitted at this meeting. Nor will you be allowed to complain about a potential loss in the value of your home. Nor will you be allowed to complain to your landlord if your rent goes up in the event the market determines your apartment is now worth more money.

I know that having a professional, independent group come in and help us out sounds dumb. After all, what do ‘outsiders’ know about Dunwoody? They don’t know who your kid swims with in the summer. They do not know you were gift wrap chairperson two years running at your school and do not deserve to be rezoned.

But take heart fellow residents. This firm will focus only on the science of urban planning. They will put kids where it makes the most sense, not where you think they should go. Taking politics out of it will be a tough pill to swallow for any DeKalb politician. But it can be done. And when parents complain, the school board members will get a pass by saying, “Hey, I didn’t do that. We outsourced that issue.”
Dr. Lewis and his staff can remain focused on other issues within the county. I know DeKalb County Schools are broke. I’d approach Dunwoody City Council to foot the bill for this project. I know, our city has no control over schools, but nothing would stop the city from hiring a firm to resolve this issue. After all, a city will either prosper or wither away based on its schools. If DeKalb would agree to resolve this issue based on findings of an independent urban planning firm as long as they did not have to pay for it, I would support Dunwoody’s mayor and council in their efforts.
END of August 2009 post

So I was not 100% accurate with my Vanderlyn Dual Campus, but I came fairly close. Here is the latest schedule for the Vanderlyn/Community meetings (I just stole copied and pasted the info from Dunwoody School Daze .  DunwoodyMom, the keeper of that blog, should start selling ad space.  Her ad rep should make a sales call to St Judes, OLA, Holy Innocents, Holy Spirit, Woodward, Epstein, Mt Vernon, etc. 

***Notice of Vanderlyn Meetings***

Tuesday, January 25 @ 8:30 am - 10:00 am
Vanderlyn Community Meeting about Redistricting
(Past, Present, and Future Vanderlyn Parents)
At Dunwoody Baptist Church Building G (Dining Room)

Tuesday, January 25 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Vanderlyn Community Meeting about Redistricting
(Past, Present, and Future Vanderlyn Parents)
At Vanderlyn Elementary 

If this Vanderlyn Campus/Academy idea is adopted I think I deserve 10% commission on all their T-shirt sales, the ability to check books out of their libraries, and dinner at Sweet Tomatoes with the VandyTrio and BloggerBob and DunwoodyMom.

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