Cobb prepares to embark on major school redistricting

As we have discussed in the past, nothing riles parents as much as school redistricting. And Cobb is considering the largest reshuffling of students and school lines in its history.

There is little that can be said to reassure parents who are losing what they consider a neighborhood school, but many posters in the past have reported their children adjusted well to the new setting.

Redistricting would be less upsetting if we have public school choice within school districts and students were already crisscrossing the county. But now there is great allegiance and preference for neighborhood schools, so much so that many people buy their homes based on the local school. When that local school is not as local as it was, there tends to be resistance and unhappiness.

I hope there is enough faith in the Cobb school board that this process will not be unnecessarily bloody, but there seems to be residual hostility from the school calendar reversal.

Cobb parents are meeting tonight and tomorrow night on the two redistricting proposals, which will be voted on in February. Tonight’s is at Pebblebrook High School, and tomorrow’s is at  Campbell High School. You can find the two proposals here at the Cobb site.

According to the AJC:

Two elementary schools would close under the proposals, and a third would relocate, while others would reorganize. Also, some two dozen other elementary schools in south-central Cobb would be affected as students are sent to different schools.

The changes are meant to curb expenses and address some schools being overcrowded and others under-enrolled. Although the Cobb school system is not growing — enrollment has hovered around 107,000 for at least half a decade — some schools have grown too full. Others are less than full, and others are just old.

The two schools slated to close are Brown and Sky View. Another, the Fitzhugh Lee Center of HAVEN Academy, which serves children with emotional behavior disorders, would move into the emptied Brown building.

The students and teachers would move together, so relationships can be maintained. “The teachers follow the kids,” Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said.

School system spokesman Jay Dillon said it was the largest shuffling in Cobb’s history. The last shift was in 2008 and involved about a half dozen schools. As in the past, the proposal to move attendance lines has riled parents. The school system is accepting anonymous comments about the plan on its website, and people have made disdainful comments about some schools, drawing defensive comments from others.

Parents such as Tammie Benosky are concerned about what they’ll lose. The mother of a boy and girl at Brown said the school has about 300 kids and is just right. “We have a nice community,” she said. “This is a school where every teacher knows every student’s name.”

Benosky, a member of Brown’s parent-teacher association, said the new school will double in size. “It’s going to lose that small school feel,” she said.

Also among the planned changes, which would roll out over the next two school years, is the expansion of Austell Primary School, which serves kindergartners and first-graders, and Austell Intermediate, which serves second- through fifth-graders. Both would become traditional kindergarten through fifth-grade schools, saving more than $100,000 a year in transportation costs, system officials said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

15 comments Add your comment

d

October 25th, 2011
8:45 pm

In the end, the parents throw a huge fit over redistricting but if you look at the children end up doing just fine.

catlady

October 25th, 2011
8:48 pm

Neighborhood schools should remain so. Neighborhood schools are the answers to many of the problems that plague public education (if we could only get rid of the “policymakers”)

Jennifer

October 25th, 2011
10:16 pm

It is good to learn from other parents who have gone through redistricting recently and did some effective community organizing around the issue. If you are interested “like” Duluth Redistrict on FB and we will connect.

Ernest

October 25th, 2011
10:37 pm

Like everyone else, I like small, neighborhood schools. Regretfully they are not cost effective, especially when you consider including an AP along with music and art to ensure equitable program offerings. I seldom hear people say they are willing to pay more school taxes to keep small neighborhood schools. Oops, City of Decatur does that, right Maureen?

Lisa

October 25th, 2011
10:43 pm

Same here. I really like the idea of neighborhood schools, but they depend upon a stable population of kids moving through the school from kindergarten through fifth. (The same thing is true of the trendy K-8 model.) Unfortunately, such neighborhood stability is seldom the reality in south Cobb, with its high transiency rates.

No Sense

October 25th, 2011
10:50 pm

I understand the need to redistrict, but realistic or “natural” boundary lines were not considered. The neighborhood I live in is one that may be redistricted to another school. Currently, we live .02 miles from our school (we can see it from the entrance of our neighborhood), and we could move to a school that is 1.5 miles away and would create a transportation nightmare. There are homes directly across the street from our school that would no longer be zoned there. Additionally, a part of the redistricting map has a group of neighborhoods that only have only one road that they can use to get to the new school zone – and it passes right by our current school. So no, I have no faith in the Cobb County School Board because they have created a huge mess that makes no sense.

another comment

October 25th, 2011
11:22 pm

The big problem over in this area and still doesn’t make any sense is that in the late 1990’s early 2000’s the Cobb School board gave in to John Wieland and zigzaged the school district lines for the Teasley Elementary District. This was all so Wielands newest subdivision at the time Heritage at Vinings could be zoned into the more presigious Teasley Elementary School, rather than Brown Elementary School.

Only a year or so before, Cobb County had zoned several Subdivisions off of Ridge Road, which were closer to Teasley out of the district, and into King Springs Elementary. Only those with older siblings could stay at Teasley, if they provided transportation.

Teasley had been the best little school in Vinings. The people in Vinings actually sent their kids to Teasley for K-5. It was a great little school of only about 350 kids. The school was about 70-80% White with very few free lunchers. It was a top performing school.

The hidden effect of the zigzag going up to get Heritage at Vinings that Clearly should have been in Brown and now in the “new smyrna school” was that in order to put it in they had to put in 2-3 old run down section 8 apartment complexes “DeVille”. All of a sudden Teasley was over run with low income section 8 voucher students and illegals anchor babies. They went to over 600 students in one year. At the DeVille apartments alone they were sending a minimum of 3 school busses in the afternoon. 1 apartment complex. The school went to over 50% Free lunch, and then high ESOL. All for one John Wieland Subdivision.

Then when they built Nichajack, more houses that were obviously closer to Teasley, were bussed all the way over to Nichajack. Down winding narrow Cooper Lake Rd., instead of going to Teasley a school that was less than a mile away.

Nichajack was also run over by apartment kids. Thank Goodness for lease specials and the bullies being able to count on the bullies leaving when their lease special ending. Because Nickajacks princepal never does anything about the bullies.

1,000 student elementary schools are too big. Especially when they are low SES, Free Lunch and ESOL, combined with Principals that turn a blind eye. Parents who don’t volunteer. Oh! I forgot, the white parents will, let them do it. Nickajack was horrible.

You should be zoned to the one that you live the closest to milage wise, no irregular crazy borders, due to developers or trying to get this or that.

Teacher Reader

October 25th, 2011
11:47 pm

Why do schools with less than 500 kids need an AP? There are ways to cut costs to keep neighborhood schools, which are better for a community. Also having kids transported miles from the nearest school costs money, as in gas for the buses. Why are the people in our school systems not thinking logically when they make decisions? I am sorry that there may be a school with a transient population, but why do that to so many schools? Why make schools unappealing to the parents who pay the taxes to the school and have a vested interest in them?

Another Math Teacher

October 26th, 2011
12:19 am

Teacher Reader :

“Why do schools with less than 500 kids need an AP?”

In case the principal is sick?

It almost makes me nauseous to say it, but two is probably the minimum number of administrators. (One to watch the door, the other to erase.)

South Cobb parent

October 26th, 2011
8:53 am

To balance the attacks on Nickajack: My children attend Nickajack. We’ve been there 7 years. I am a long-time weekly volunteer, and I find the school a very quiet, orderly place for a building with almost 1000 elementary students. I agree that it’s too big, especially since I remember years when there were 650 students, but I can’t remember a time “horrible” has crossed my mind when thinking of our school at any time. My children have friends, and the teachers we have had are conscientious.

What has struck me about the public comments on redistricting in Cobb is the force of whatever prejudices the parents have, whether that means to exclude apartment dwellers, to pad a high achieving school with more perceived “high achieving” neighborhoods to doctor the AYP stats, or to increase the presence of their own social group. Very little discussion occurs on practical matters such as bus routes, building capacity, proximity, middle school feeding patterns that have a daily effect on the school community except as an excuse for keeping the status quo. I don’t think the board and policy makers have shown much courage on the redistricting or much investigation of any kind. Nickajack is set to become bigger because of a proposed addition of 8 classrooms. However, if those classrooms are used solely for classroom teachers the occupational therapists who share a closet sized office will still not have any room to conduct their therapy, changing nothing. And there are others who need space for services and activities. Insults over social status and mailing address are the prevailing sentiments.

JB

October 26th, 2011
9:31 am

It’s interesting that in APS we have dozens of former schools that were turned into lofts; now schools in same districts are overcrowded and it’s too expensive to expand existing or build new. I believe school choice would solve a lot of our problems – not just space issues. In the interim, why do schools not lease space? This certainly would make things more flexible as the population shifts throughout the districts.

catlady

October 26th, 2011
10:11 am

Our school of 300 K-7 had no AP, AND the principal taught a class every day.

another comment

October 26th, 2011
11:48 am

It is the attitude an the value of the Section 8 Apartment dwellers that is the issue. They are content with living off of others tax dollars, while they drive luxury cars, have hair weaves, their nails done, etc… While others of us, scrimp and save to buy a house, we do without to try and build our way up in the middle class. Only to have out cars broken into the little middle school members of the Crips in the Publix shopping center on South Cobb and South Atlanta.

Yes, we want neighborhood schools, by the $300,000 to $700,000 house we bought. It is hard enough that we already have to stomach we are paying for the free lunch, the section 8 housing, while the bullies momma drives a luxury car in the drug dealling baby daddies name, gets $300 hair weaves, and her nails done. If you think this doesn’t exist at Nickajack, your head is in the sand.

The parent participation is night and day between Nickajack and Teasley. I did a transfer back to Teasley. I shouldn’t have to when my house was less than a mile. Even then nothing was done about the illegal, Alabama, Lousianna, Mississipi tags at daily pick up. When Georgia Law gives you 30 days.

Antonio

October 26th, 2011
7:56 pm

Wow…I am both amazed and disgusted at the comments about socio-economic status. Sure there are some people on Section 8 and other entitlement programs that abuse them, but when I last looked there are corporate bankers (ie Bank of America, Capitol One, Goldman Sachs) that have done the same.

When you’re poor they call it welfare…when you’re rich, they call it subsidies…all entitlements from the goverment at the expense of the taxpayer. Oh yeah, and no small business, middle class home owner has EVER used the government for anything. I guess the roads their products travel on are owned by private corporations. The police that protect their businesses are contracted.

True bigger schools, with certain students, can have bullies, but bullying is not always a socioeconomic indication. Last I checked Columbine was a white upper middle class highschool. Let’s not talk about the promisicous sex on campus, weed smoking, alcohol drinking kids that drive their BMWs to school with a pocket full of their mom’s prescription pain pills from their middle class home that is held together at the seams because the parents are only staying married for the kids. I went to these schools with these kids.

Am I stereotyping…yes, and it serves no place in a discussion that is supposed to be about effectively and efficiently running a school system to better educate our kids.

There are Title I schools that in fact meet AYP more often than their counterpart schools, and have test scores that compare to the “Teasleys” of the world. Check the CCSD for real quantified data instead of going on hear say and rumor.

So instead of always having “white flight” as the only answer, why not offer real solutions that are not based on your fear based prejudices. Last I checked, most parents, regardless of socioeconomic status wants their child in a safe, good, and thriving school.

Good Mother

October 27th, 2011
1:08 pm

Something similar is happending in APS. There are elementary schools that are severly overcrowded but they have excellent test scores and had no evidence of CRCT cheating.

That portion of APS (SRT 3) now is having a team of demographers look at how to relieve the overcrowding and one of the options is to redraw the school zones so that some of those students will now have to go to school in a school located south, which is underpopulated but had the principal and two teachers who confessed to cheating.

Of course the parents do not want to be rezoned to be in a school that couldnt’ make the grade without the cheating. That’s good parenting, not racism. Parents get bashed about for not caring about their children but when they make the major purchase of their lives, their homes, based on the performance of the school, parents often get called “racist”.

APS made a huge blunder by selling school buildings and land. IF they are unneeded, they should be RENTED, not sold because the population will shift and they will be needed again, such as right now.

I do have a solution. Move all administrators into trailers. The beat up kinds the kids go to class in — without bathrooms. Use the money wasted on the administrators to build additions to existing schools that are overcrowded and stop selling school property. It makes good common sense.