Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vanderlyn Campus Presented

I am glad to see so many people in love with their school.  The emotion speaks volume to the dedication they have for their elementary school.  It's nice to see people present options and try to resolve this issue of redistricting.  But for those of you putting out maps please keep in mind the criteria established by the school system.  Keep the maps and plans coming.  This redistricting has resulted in thousands of emails, hundreds of hours of meetings, and lots of heartache.  Hopefully these same parents will keep this involvement going and move it into the schools. 

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.

Vertical Map Gone, New DeKalb Redistricting Plans for Dunwoody

The VV map is gone, sorta.  The VV Map was the secret Vanderlyn Vertical map.  The Vertical map made no sense and, as suggested a week ago, was abandoned.  But new plans are in the works.  Remember three years ago when I suggested we rename Dunwoody Elementary School to Vanderlyn II you all laughed?  Who's laughing now? Keep an eye out for a new VV Map.  One 'V' still stands for Vanderlyn.  The other?  Take a guess.

Move aside lady GaGa.  Your Poker Face means nothing around here.  Stay tuned DunwoodyTalk visitors.  The players have all bought a rack of chips and the high-stakes game of school redistricting has begun.  The table has many players; some with big stacks, others with short stacks.

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 education.com-2009 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'.