Monday, January 17, 2011

Dunwoody Redistricting

DunwoodySchoolDaze blog is doing a great job staying on top of all the redistricting stuff.  Visit here for all updates and meetings. I don't agree with her on all the issues, but you can't take away her passion for the local schools, mostly her favorite, Chesnut (and don't spell it ChesTnut on her blog or she will smack your knuckles with a ruler).

Lots of meetings this week.  Lots of ideas passing around.  Seems to me like these meetings should have been conducted BEFORE the two plans were put forth.  If everyone had the data (the maps showing where students live, distances, capacity, etc) perhaps these councils could have worked something out ahead of time.  Too late for that.

Each elementary school council will meet early this week.  Then the Dunwoody High School Council will meet Thursday to see if a few points can be agreed upon for the cluster attendance zones.  If some things are agreed upon by this council, they will be shared as such by the superintendent.

The superintendent would appreciate such a list as it makes her job easier.  If the majority do not like what happens, she can simply point back to the DHS Cluster Council.

I have not seen the complete list of members of the DHS Cluster Council. I have seen a few names, and they are good people.  But, my fear is an 'agreemnent' be reached by a simple majority (perhaps a 5-4 vote) and then that gets passed on as 'Dunwoody's Official Response'.  With over 800 signatures on one petition, and a like number on a different petition, it's obvious very little can be agreed upon within the community.

I'm not on a member of the DHS Cluster Council, nor was I invited to attend.  I hope the council chairperson allows only official members of the council to attend the meeting, in addition to any school board member wanting to attend.  No media, no friends, no others.  If one person not on the council roster (can someone send me that list, please?) is permitted to attend, then the results, if any, are tainted.

What can we agree upon?  Thanks for asking:

1.  Vanderlyn keeps its modulars.  It looks like DES will see its capacity reduced.  This is a big shame.  The school has 59 classrooms, lots of open space, a big lobby, etc.  Plenty of room for 1100 kids.  But looks like the planners screwed up (maybe cutting corners?) and made the cafeteria too small for 59 classrooms worth of kids.  I think a local review committee (probably made up of the same people on every other school council/committee) signed off on the design (like they signed off and approved the DHS pond), but that's a different story for another day.  We have more kids than seats.  It is better to have kids in modulars than trailers, so keep modulars at Vanderlyn. This will keep another 200+ kids at Vanderlyn, easing the pain a little for some.  But who gets those 200 seats?  I think they go to whomever lives the closest.  I f the DES cafeteria meets specifications for 100 kids, then bring in a pro from the hospitality / food service industry to find out how to efficiently run a school cafeteria.

2.  No portable trailers at Austin. No explanation needed.  No trailers at DES.  The school cafeteria may not be able to handle 1100 so no need for trailers.  However, maybe the county can build modular feeding centers?  Cafeteria too small?  Expand it. 

3.  Hightower to a different cluster.  Hightower is a Title I school, with Federal dollars allocated for each student.  But when this population leaves a Title I school, the federal dollars do not follow.  This redistricitng is ALL ABOUT MONEY. If the case can be proven that placing Hightower in a Title I cluster saves/creates a lot of money for the school system, it needs considered.  This would also relive overcrowding at the middle and high school.

4.  Use the county's attendance policy and the consultants criteria when establishing attendance zones.  I am well aware of the 'access' and 'fair distribution' claims. It's as if Dunwoody has its own three-fifths compromise. To put simply, in order to place kids from multi-family homes in Austin and Vanderlyn you have to discriminate against the home owner.  Let's use Vanderlyn as the example.  the Jefferson is the closest apartment complex to the building.  In order to include the 175 kids from The Jefferson (over two miles away) in Vanderlyn's attendance zone you need to exclude those kids living one mile away in single family homes. 

5.  All Dunwoody residents stay in the Dunwoody Cluster.  It makes sense on many fronts.  Let's keep the folks over near Georgetown in mind during this process.

So there you have it.  Five things the Dunwoody Cluster council can agree upon.  Meeting canceled.  Let's all meet at Mellow Mushroom for freshly baked pizza, cold pitchers of Hoegaarden, and tap water for the kids.

I keep hearing about 'access'. I think someone in the community has worked for a political party's PR department.  This 'access' terms is right up there No Child Left Behind, Fairness Doctrine.  By using 'access' you'd thing the central or decentral plan banned certain people from public schools, public parks, and from eating at Moe's.  Not the case.  No access has been denied.  You want to go to Vanderlyn?  Buy or rent a home in its new attendance zone.  There all people all over the county who would like to have their kids at Vanderlyn.  They are not denied access any more than anyone else. 

On the topic of money, using the 'geography' guideline cuts down on transportation costs.  under the central and decentral plans the number of buses needed at Austin get cut in half.  Vanderlyn also reduces its carbon footprint as it will need less buses.  Of course these kids need transportation to DES, but the routes will be shorter and avoid congested areas for the most part.

The Dunwoody High School Cluster Council was created after the 4th 5th grade academy ordeal.  The idea was to prevent another Battle Royal like we have witnessed the past two weeks.  I like the idea of a local council, but think its members should be 100% different than the DCPC (Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council).  By having overlap, it's more of the same.  I really hate to criticize volunteers.  I volunteer in the community and don't like it when someone knocks the Community Garden or some other worthwhile cause I help. But I have to ask why the DHS Cluster Council did not call for an emergency meeting when it was announced Austin scored 30 out of 100 (second lowest in all of DeKalb) on its recent inspection.

I am going to stay away from all the meetings this week and next week.  Those of you who sat on your hands in the past and now regret it, it's your time to get involved.