Unofficial Survey Says Parents Prefer K-5 Model

26 05 2009

Over on her CSD reconfiguration blog, CSD Mom has been writing for a while about efforts to get the school board to consider a parent survey regarding reconfiguration, which would complement a survey already completed among teachers.  However, the school board didn’t taken any action on that front, so CSD Mom created her own survey and asked parents to participate.

Well, the survey is now closed and the 288 votes have been tallied and with 29% of the vote, Option 6 (which opts from the old K-5 model instead of K-3 and a 4/5 academy) won out over Option 13 that received 26% of the vote.

Now it should be said that this is an unscientific survey and CSD Mom hasn’t been shy about promoting Option 6 over all the others over at her site.  Even so, this seemingly strong support among parents, who made up 84% of the survey vote, for Option 6 shows an interesting and under-reported element to the reconfiguration struggle.  Option 6 would effectively dismantle the 4/5 academy model that has long been heralded by administrators, teachers, and a good number of parents.  Be that as it may, there seems to be a good contingent of parents out there who would rather revert back to a less expensive K-5 system, than spend money to completely renovate 5th Ave so it could become the city’s 4/5 Academy.

Personally, I’m still unsure which option to support.  However, I remain wary to assume that the city’s student population will continue to rise indefinitely into the future…without annexation of course.

DHS Senior Run

26 05 2009

09 senior run

09 senior run2

Teacher Chris Billingsley sends in some candid pics from DHS last week.   Seniors did their annual run through the halls, ending at the media center.

Chris continues, “Graduation is [this]week in the stadium. Several are off to Yale and Harvard. Quite a few to Georgia and Tech. Almost all seniors have college, career, or military plans. Good Luck! Carpe Diem!”

DHS Students Raise Money in Memory of Moms

25 05 2009

09 fx donation group2

Chris Billingsley, who does a great job of keeping us up-to-date of goings-on at DHS, provides some pictures and writes in…

During the past two months, students at Decatur High School have participated in two service projects, trying to raise funds to honor the memory of four DHS moms who passed away during the school year. The four mothers, Ms. Barbara Nettles, Ms. Sheila Jackson, Ms. Laura McCombs Schwartz, and Ms. Ruth Golley, were honored today at 3:15 in the media center. Thanks for very generous donations from the Emory Law School, Emory law professor and Decatur municipal Judge Lindsay Jones, and Glennwood Academy teacher Ms. Suzzi Jennings, the students were able to raise over $800.

DHS principal Ms. Lauri McKain-Fernandez accepted two checks from students Ryann Jackson, Ellen Nettles, and Ross Wade (missing Peter Golley). Donations will be made to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer home in Atlanta and the Decatur Education Foundation for student travel scholarships. Congratulations to all who participated in this worthy cause.

CSD Board Tables Reconfiguration for 30 Days

13 05 2009

CSD Mom reports over on her reconfiguration blog that the school board voted last night to table the reconfiguration issue for 30 days, but gave strong indications that they would follow the superintendent’s recommendation of Option #13 (renovate 5th Ave).

Not to jump ahead too quickly, but I wonder how reverting Glennwood back to an elementary school will affect districting.

Decatur High School on Lockdown This Morning

13 05 2009

UPDATE: Lockdown is over.  See the note from Principal McKain-Fernandez in Scott’s comment below.

A tipster writes in and lets us know that Decatur High School is under lockdown again this morning.

CSD’s Maria Lewis tells DM…

“Yes, DHS is currently on lockdown. The police are searching lockers and the students have been detained inside of their classrooms until the search is complete. For the protection of the student involved, I cannot release any additional information at this time.”

School Board “Not Expected” To Vote On Reconfiguration Tuesday

10 05 2009

The AJC’s Kristen Torres provides a nice summary of the CSD reconfiguration issue in today’s paper in preparation of Tuesday’s Board Meeting when the Superintendent will give her recommendation on the issue.

Of particular note: Torres has a quote from board member Julie Rhame saying that though the board could technically vote on the issue Tuesday, it probably won’t happen.

Superintendent Provides Detailed Update On School Lockdown

8 05 2009

Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards updates the community about yesterday’s school lockdown and gives details about proactive steps being taken to protect CSD students.

Dear CSD Parents,

Yesterday one of our bus drivers noticed a large group of students, not from our schools, coming toward the high school from the area around the MARTA station and coming up from behind where we park the buses. I have heard reports that there were anywhere from 30 to 50 students. Fortunately, a crisis was averted because of the quick thinking and action taken by our staff members and CSD?s School Resource Officer Cameron Coltharp. Around dismissal time, Officer Coltharp notified Mrs. McCain-Fernandez and Mr. Roaden that the middle school and the high School needed to be locked down.

Contrary to some rumors, there was nothing going on inside the schools. I have heard that some students inside of DHS called their parents and reported that there was an active shooter inside the school. This was not the case. Sometimes cell phones can be a lifeline however, it is important for you to talk with your children about two things in this respect; 1) cell phones in use can jam frequency for the police and first responders and 2) information given that is just conjecture causes more panic.

At no time were the students in the high school or the middle school in danger. The buildings were locked down to ensure that the group of students approaching the school did not make their way into the building as the police went after them. Therefore, students were not released until we were absolutely certain that it was safe for them to go outside.

One of the students taken into custody was determined to be in possession of some type of ammunition, but no gun was found. Taking precautionary measures, the police chief ordered in the dogs to determine if any weapons could be found on campus. Students were released after it was confirmed that there were no weapon on the grounds. Read the rest of this entry »

Superintendent Changes Mind, Recommends 5th Ave Over Renfroe

6 05 2009

This is what its all about folks.  Good, honest discussion can change minds.

First on DM: In a lengthy and detailed letter to the school board (click on Action Item IX.d), Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards lays out her final recommendation regarding the school system’s reconfiguration. (Thanks to CSD Mom for the tip!)

After thanking various parties for all their hard work, Edwards admits that comments presented during the listening sessions changed her position on the issue and she has decided to go along with the reconfiguration committee and recommend Option #13 (renovate 5th Ave Elementary to serve as 4/5) as the best solution to the school system’s capacity issues.

Here’s the must-read paragraph…

I have reviewed the results of the committee. I have reviewed the survey results from the teachers. I am recommending two options. My top recommendation is that we completely renovate or rebuild Fifth Avenue School as the new home for the 4/5 Academy. I believe that this is a beautiful site in a neighborhood that has waited patiently for us to do something with this property. I feel that thinking long-term, CSD will need the additional school building renovated and in good condition-especially if annexation moves forward. The city is four square miles. This is not far for students to attend school and bussing will be available. It will require capital outlay but we can also get some rather good pricing in this econony. We have run the numbers and borrowing 10- 15 million (which would allow us to rebuild Fifth Avenue, as well as renovate Renfroe Middle School) would be at a cost of $350,000-$600,000 estimated annually. Even if we approve this plan at this board meeting, it will take perhaps the better part of two years to design and construct. [emphasis added] It would be my recommendation that we move ahead with our planning process in terms of selecting a firm and getting the architectural and zoning work done as quickly as possible. In the future, I would recommend that the next SPLOST (IV) be dedicated in part to paying off the GO Bond and the new borrow. If successful, which I have no reason to think it would not be, the voters/taxpayers would not see increases in their taxes. We have done a good job of keeping the millage down, even this year in tough economic times. I cannot guarantee that this will always be the case but I do not see the millage rising beyond 1 mill in the 2010-2011.

She goes on to recommend the Renfroe renovation as a backup option and states clearly that she does not support any of the other 11 options, including waiting a year or two.

Also of interest in this letter:  Edwards details future plans for Westchester that seems to guarantee that the school administration offices would have to move to a new facility.

Children Found In Fewer Than 1% of Decatur Condos

5 05 2009

In case you can’t wait for the hard copy, the May Decatur Focus is now online.

As is often the case, the must-read section this month is Lyn’s “Focus on Downtown Development.”  This month she answers some of the most common questions heard from residents lately.

One of those questions addresses something we’ve been batting around here for months.

Q: Aren’t all of these multi-family developments generating a lot of children that will over-burden the school system?

A: Of the more than 600 new units built in downtown, fewer than six house children. [emphasis mine] More than 60 percent of the residents in these units are empty-nesters and the remaining 40 percent are primarily young professionals. Households with school-aged children are generally drawn to single family housing and Decatur hasn’t added a significant number of single family units since the development of the Sycamore Ridge subdivision in the early 1990s.

In 1970, national figures showed that 44 percent of all households had children and only 17 percent of them were singleperson households. In 2006, roughly 35 percent of American households had children while 26 percent were single-person households. In Decatur, only 25 percent of our households have school-aged children. Baby Boomers will continue to drive the housing market for the foreseeable future and they are opting for smaller housing units in an urban setting. We believe this will continue to support the condominium market, which provides signifi cant tax revenue for school operations without adding to the student population.

Wow.  Apparently the yard is as important a feature for Fido as it is for little Sally.

Click over to page 2 of The Focus to read the rest of Lyn’s FAQ.

CSD Cracking Down on Non-Resident Students

5 05 2009

Looks like reconfiguration has finally forced CSD to get serious about families who lie about their addresses – sometimes even falsifying documents – to get their children into Decatur’s school system.

Here’s a letter by Dr. Edwards that was sent out to select parents on March 30th.  The meatiest paragraphs follow…

For several years now, under my tenure, we have made efforts to implement residency procedures. Try as we might, we still have people that have resorted to lying about their address, falsifying documents or asking others to do so for them. You may have seen in the newspapers where some systems are actually taking legal action against people who perpetrate fraud of this type.

Right after spring break, your child’s school principal will be sending out communication asking for verification of residency. If you receive this type of letter, we ask you to understand why we have to ask you again to provide proof of residence. We will also be auditing the records randomly to see if we have missed some pertinent information.

Finally, there are some individuals whose residency has been in question for some time. I am directing the principals to send out notification to these families with the intent that the children be withdrawn and sent to their home schools. We will be providing enough time so that families can withdraw their children and get them settled into their new school for the next school year. We will be asking our attorneys to look closely at affidavits and leases provided in questionable circumstances.

While this certainly sucks for the kids caught in the middle, that’s not the school system’s fault or problem.  Parents should lead by example and play by the rules.

Special note to the AJC: Since this is something I could see you following up on, I’d just like to go on the record and point out that it was reported here first.  Thanks.