Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everybody in Dunwoody Happy Now?

During the school board campaign race last year, talk was that Jester would not be able to work with other board members.  "Dunwoody would have no voice" we were told. Looks like that is not the case.  Jester apparently worked well with a few other Board members and answered the screams cries of many of her constituents.  Dunwoody was represented on the Board.  Chesnut got more kids, two groups moved were moved back, and the schools will all be K-5 next year.

An interesting strategy was deployed at the meeting tonight. Instead of each board member making a bunch of individual amendments to the superintendent's plan, it seems as a majority of Board members cooperated and had Mr. McChesney present that group's changes.  The biggest change (affecting the most kids) was the Flat Rock / Bouie (south side of county) issue that was derailed.

Like it or not, there were a few changes made to the Dunwoody cluster. The number of kids from Dunwoody affected by tonight's changes was fairly minor, about 100.  But the changes were made based on logic.  No way those north of Womack should have been moved to DES.  I'm not saying Vanderlyn needed 705 kids, but if it were to shed some bodies it should have been from the eastern side of Vanderlyn's zone.  Same for Austin.  The Austin 28 should stay at Austin.  If you needed to take kids out of Austin it would have been from the southwest part of that school's zone. 

Tonight's school board meeting was delayed due to a mysterious power outage.  It really was right  out of the X Files.  Was it a plot to delay redistricting?  Did DeKalb forget to pay GA Power? But light or no light, the Board stayed the path.  Frantic TV viewers from all over DeKalb gathered around TVs and Computers to watch live the DeKalb Board meeting to only find a replay of last month's meeting instead of a live broadcast. Word quickly spread that a lone sole was sending messages from the belly of the beast - that lone sole goes by the name Patch.... Dunwoody Patch.  With live blogging Dunwoody Patch kept us tuned in, at least until the broadcast resumed.

So who 'won' tonight?  Not sure anyone won, but more people are happy today than yesterday.

Let's start at Chesnut.  Chesnut wanted more kids; they got more kids.  They should now have enough to have all the FTE points needed for 'specials.  Chesnut lost 40 to Kingsley, but picked up nearly that many tonight.  Chesnut told Jester they wanted more kids, and they got more kids.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, the namesake for Austin Elem?

Austin:  The Austin 28 moved back to Austin.  This makes sense, but Austin will be crowded next year.  Austin will have less kids than it does this school year.  All kids should be able to have a real indoor classroom, but will need to go outside for Discovery, art, music. Austin now needs to focus on getting a 4-pack of the modular trailers with water/plumbing.    In the end Austin loses only 80 kids. that's three classrooms - enough so that all main classes are in the main building. That's an improvement from this year for sure  That can all change if the MFH complex fills some vacancies.  Austin PTA, listen up:  Start the process of getting those modulars today.  Talk to principal, county water department, Jester, etc.  I think most folks at Austin are happy with the redistricting results.  The big gripe at Austin will be that they will be at 106% with a crappy building and the nastiest trailers in all of DeKalb while a new DES hovers around 80%.  But I think Austin folks need to be happy with the way things turned out.  Things could have been much different.  The Branches and Pointe at Perimeter complex stays at Austin as does the newly acclaimed Austin 28. Go get those modulars! Maybe Vanderlyn will sell Austin one set of those fancy modulars for $1.

Vanderlyn: The WOVERS are back! Pull those Vanderlyn Polo's out of the garage sale tub and put them back in the kids' drawers. Vandy will need all the modulars.  Vanderlyn will have about 705 kids, about 120 less than today.  Still, Vanderlyn will be 131% capacity.  120 is a lot of kids to lose, but the place will still be crowded.  Don't look for many complaints, however. There will be some upset that Vandy still has the modulars, but the county wanted to make sure that DES had no trailers.  Not sure why, but the school system likes to keep new schools trailer-free and keep the portables at older schools.  I think that's the complete opposite of what should happen. But those modulars are nearly as good as a standard classroom.  We heard during this process that many people at Vanderlyn were OK with over capacity.  But expect to continue to hear noise and read nasty blog comments about Jester from those moved out of Vanderlyn.  To some, staying at Vanderlyn no matter how close or how far away they reside from Vanderlyn compared to DES was everything.  I doubt anything will change their opinion.  If DES next year had students as a whole that outperformed (on test scores) Austin and Yale and Harvard and Kittredge, they'd still be fuming. But they were not at the meeting tonight.  No one spoke from that group. Nor were they at either of the two public meetings earlier this month.  Why were they not at the public meetings like the Austin 28 and the WOVER Vandy 48? The other groups made their cases known to the public, they made sure Board members knew their situation (as did parent groups from all over the county).

Looks like the Dunwoody Elementary school will be at 80% capacity.  As a 4th and 5th grade school, DES has 738 kids.  Next year it will have 915.  915 was the number of kids new DES parents were looking for.  The DES capacity number has bounced around a few times and what I call 80% may be 85% or  90%.  We don't know for sure, and may never know.  Lots of room for growth and to run around with 20% capacity.  Those future DES parents seeking to sue the school system can now ask for their retainer fee back.  Folks zoned for DES wanted fewer kids, and they have nearly 90 less than in the plan from last month. Keep in mind that DES is exempt from NCLB transfers (No Child left Behind) for two more years.  After that, those seats are open game.  Not many elementary schools fail AYP (compared to middle and high schools), but DES may want demand 200 more Dunwoody kids in the next round of redistricting.

Look for redistricting as soon as next year, maybe two years at most. This was but a first step in the county's plans.  In five years Chesnut and Austin may be a city parks, replaced with DES style mega elementary schools.