Transparency still lacking on school affiliations for redistricting group

Nearly two weeks after The Citizen’s first request — and after three subsequent requests — the Fayette County School System so far has not released the school affiliations of the 26 parents chosen to be a part of the new 42-member Redistricting Committee.

“The parents would rather not be identified by school since they see themselves as representing the entire district, not just their particular school,” Public Relations Officer Melinda Berry-Dreisbach wrote Sept. 5 in a reply to The Citizen’s second request.

In a third request the next day, The Citizen’s reporter tried to get names of the schools represented by the group of parents. “Are all of the parents from just one or two schools? Three or four schools? All schools?”

“I’ve been told that every school that is on the possible closure list is represented on the committee,” Berry-Dreisbach replied.

After a fourth request Tuesday, she said the request had been given to Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

The majority of the 42-member redistricting committee are parents, while others come from the school system and from the community.

Though their school affiliations have not been released to date, the parents on the committee include Brian Anderson, Brigitte Burkett, Monique Comiskey, Angela Ewers, David Gibson, Drew Groome, Julie Harp, Dan Hazlett, Beth Holliman, Tesha Lee, Kevin Mathison, Meghan McDonald, Laquinta Montgomery, Chrissy O’Neal, Michelle Phillips, Kimberly Reese, Anna Regi, Mark Ridges, Melissa Sanford, Tanshanika Smith, Vernon H. Smith, Jaimi Tapp, Brett Thomas, Yvonne Walker, Dee Wiberg and Dave Wisniewski.

Community members on the committee include Jenny McCurry, Doug Mickey, Patricia Moore, Sheila Pace, Pamela Reid and Harry Sweatman.

School system employees serving on the committee include superintendent Jeff Bearden, discipline, attendance, safety and athletics coordinator C.W. Campbell, bus route supervisor Valerie Gray, transportation director Michael Jennings, webmaster Peggy O’Farrell, deputy superintendent Fred Oliver, facility services director Mike Satterfield, committee chair Mike Smith, assistant superintendent Sam Sweat and route supervisor Becky Wilson.

The task of the Fayette County School System Redistricting Committee is to arrive at proposed school boundaries for both options dealing with the potential closure of several schools beginning next school year.

The two options at hand came by a consensus of the Fayette County Board of Education. The only charge to the committee is to arrive at possible school attendance boundaries.

Option A would close Fayette Middle School, Hood Avenue Primary School and Fayetteville Intermediate School (FIS) and open Rivers Elementary School to accommodate most of the children from the two elementary schools on Hood Avenue.

Option B would close Fayette Middle, close Tyrone Elementary School and Brooks Elementary School, consolidate FIS and Hood Avenue administratively at the existing campus and leave Rivers as it is now serving some of the county special education students.

The committee’s first public meeting was held Aug. 30 at Fayette County High School. Input gained from the more than 400 parents and community members at the meeting can be accessed on the homepage of the school system’s website at www.fcboe.org.

As indicated on the school system’s website, the purpose of the redistricting committee has been established to develop and recommend student attendance boundaries based on the two options identified by the school board.

A number of parameters were established for the committee. Those include:

• Serving as a voluntary advisory committee that will work with the superintendent and his staff creating attendance boundaries options for board consideration.

• Looking at the entire system during the redistricting process and make recommended changes that the committee believes will lead to greater efficiencies.

• Working to protect the integrity of neighborhoods and subdivisions.

• Using the “cluster” model in attempt to develop logical feeder patterns.

• Keeping in mind the distance students may have to travel to get to and from school.

The work of the committee is expected to extend into December.

In September, the committee will visit the elementary schools in Tyrone and Brooks, perform boundary work on middle and high schools to develop logical feeder patterns.

Feeder patterns are those that have students flow from elementary schools to middle schools and then to high schools.

The committee in September will also work on Option A that will address the potential closure of Fayette Middle, FIS and Hood Avenue and opening Rivers.

The committee in October will continue boundary work on Option A and will begin work on Option B, the potential closure of Brooks, Tyrone and Fayette Middle, consolidating FIS/Hood and leaving Rivers as it is. The committee in October will conduct a second public hearing/information meeting if needed.

In November, the committee will continue to work on Option B, conclude all work on boundaries, conduct two public hearings and prepare a report on boundary recommendations.

And in December, the committee’s recommended boundaries will be presented to the school board for a vote.

rebtalley
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Responsible journalism

I'm really tired of the journalists at The Citizen using their voice to inflame the issues currently on the table for Fayette County. I'm sure if you wanted to actually do your job you could look up these folks in the whitepages and figure out what school districts they live in rather than pester the FCBOE staff to reveal personal information about the committee members

NUK_1
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Journalism Part 2

When I saw your blog title, I assumed you were probably talking about this very pro-Haddix "oh, poor Don everyone is out to get him" piece of "reporting" that was more "opinion" here:
http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/09-09-2012/budget-talk-gets-heated-ptc

but you were talking about something else.

As long as the BOE follows the Open Meetings Act and open records laws of GA, they shouldn't have any problem. They have a sordid history of not knowing the law too well, especially clueless Sam Sweat, but let's hope for better this time around.

rebtalley
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Responsible journalism

I'm really tired of the journalists at The Citizen using their voice to inflame the issues currently on the table for Fayette County. I'm sure if you wanted to actually do your job you could look up these folks in the whitepages and figure out what school districts they live in rather than pester the FCBOE staff to reveal personal information.

BrianAnderson
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Redistricting Committee

I guess it's hard to not be negative when times are tough. I'm guilty of this myself. But... articles like this undermine the county wide process that is going on. A lack of transparency? C'mon....all of our names are listed!

I know first hand that the FCBOE team is trying to put together a count of members with their city affiliation. I'm sure the Citizen will receive this info as soon as all of the volunteers respond to the FCBOE team.

I have no problem giving you my name, school affiliation or even cell phone!

Brian Anderson - Peachtree City Elementary School (Parent)

I have 4 kids, 3 of which that are school aged and attend Fayette County Schools. 2 at Peachtree City, and now 1 at Booth.

With over 26 parent members on the committee and another 6 concerned community members , I can tell you that the committee is not a cake walk for anyone from FCBOE school administration. The parents are extremely vocal, and have had many spirited discussions. We have asked for lots of various data points - addressing transportation, boundaries, waivers, capacity, and much more. Anything we can think of that we ask for is promptly provided by some of the FCBOE staff.

The group is led very effectively by retiring FCBOE administrator Mike Smith. He's a credit to the system and the process.

The committee is a large cross selection of schools - and by no means is Fayetteville proper under-represented. I'm not 100%, but I can tell you that it is composed of citizens covering every elementary school, and most of the middle and high schools. The Fayetteville contingent is well represented and have been excellent advocates for their respective schools.

For once, give it a rest and let the process work out. We're spending 3-4+ hours a week for what will amount to roughly 16 weeks in an attempt to contribute and make this unfortunate process go as efficiently as we can.

We are all as transparent as possible. I've had lunches with many concerned parents getting input and feedback on boundaries and other issues. I've met with my building principal numerous times.

There is nothing off the table. We are looking at everything possible in a group effort to do the best job we can under the situation. We are working for FAYETTE county as a whole - not simply our own schools.

Rather than simply ranting on this blog - put together your thoughts and ideas. Share them with us via email or mail- lots of other citizens across the county have. All are welcome.

Be part of the solution, not the problem. That is why the group of parents are spending so much time and effort on this project.

As a last comment, please remember we are simply working on boundaries. We don't choose which schools will be closed. No matter how much this point is reiterated, many seem to forget.

heatjam
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We've been burned before

I, for one, appreciate that citizens,like yourself, take the time to try and do what's best for the entire county. However, this song and dance routine has been done before. Don't you remember that there was a committee for redistricting before Inman was opened? The County paid a consultant over $30,000 to help this committee and then threw out his/their recommendations to cater to the schools/subdivisions with the loudest voices and most money. I'm not saying that this is going to happen again, as I know Mike Smith very well and he is an upstanding man, but forgive those of us who are a bit skeptical about the process. Just take a look at the 2 options left on the table...who, in their right mind, would leave River's AS IT IS?? Operating with less than 50 students or so? It's a definite set-up for Dr. Bearden's option to pass. I truly hope that you find that you haven't wasted all of your time...I know that many people in the previous committee felt like they had.

g8trgrl
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Heatjam

I was on the last committee & it was closer to $80,000 that the board spent on the consultant. The consultant said it would never work unless you made the maps behind closed doors. He knew the committee would feel extreme pressure if the meetings were open. Nothing like having people hover over your shoulder as you work with a dry erase marker!!

I really hope the board follows one of the committee's recommendations. I spent many hours working on maps on the last go around - having intense discussions with fellow committee members to have it tossed out. Tends to leave a person a little jaded.......

BrianAnderson
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re: We've been burned before

Thanks HeatJam.

I've learned quite a lot about the past committee and what did and did not occur. Very frustrating stories for sure. All I can share is that we as a group are committed to doing the right for all - regardless of any loud schools/subdivisions lobbying efforts.

On a personal level, I couldn't agree more with you re: "Leave Rivers as It Is". Ridiculous idea. Almost as asinine as the political pandering recently around "closing Inman".

As for wasting time, I am as certain as anyone can be that Dr. Bearden will run with our recommendations on the boundaries. I'm skeptical as well that politics won't get involved as the final decisions get closer, but in good faith, I am simply trying to work hard and do the right thing along with the 41 other members. We can only hope the elected school board has the wisdom to do the right thing.

halfdollarandlost
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Redistricting Committee

If this committee was on the up and up, the school board would have no problem releasing school affiliations. They don't have to tie names to each school, just how many each school has on the committee. I guess the three Fayetteville schools have a total of three parents on this committee.

Larry Sussberg
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Transparency & School Re-Districting

Why should the school board give you the names? They are volunteers plus for years The Citizen has made its opinion known and attacked the school system trying to make everyone look stupid. These attacks have been directed towards the administration, the school board, and staff.

The recent attack on Mr. Presburg and his "beliefs" vs "values" was an total disgrace, and it was something out of the 1960's you see in old civil rights films.

The attack on the financial management is similar since the State of GA notifies the school board 60 days in advance of funding cuts which has been happening over the past 4+ years.

I have never seen a small group of people work so hard to try to control of the school board and in the process destroy hard working and dedicated people.

These are volunteers and the last thing they need are similar attacks.

IMHO

NUK_1
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There's plenty of reason to attack BOE Finance
Larry Sussberg wrote:

The attack on the financial management is similar since the State of GA notifies the school board 60 days in advance of funding cuts which has been happening over the past 4+ years.

Larry, every BOE knew these cuts were coming each year(not exactly how much but they knew there would be a reduction) and very few had already hit the 20mils rate that is the state maximum. When you're wrong by 9million you aren't even in the ballpark. When it happens over and over with the staff, you have a very serious problem, especially considering that the millage rate collected cannot be raised as was done in the past to cover up a lot of bad planning by both the BOE and Finance Dept.

Larry Sussberg
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FCBOE Finance

Let's look forward not backward,
our politicans look backward to play "the blame game" to win elections.

Dr. Bearden has laid out an extensive plan to cut costs. Not sure citizens have seen them. It is now in the FCBOE hands to act on them.

Here is what was proposed and you can see if more than close 2 or 3 schools:

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/TempFolder/Meetings/Faculty%...

The current members of the FCBOE can make an impact NOW with this proposal. Let's hope the politics are left out and they act.

Everyone needs to read the proposal, it doesn't make headlines so not sure citizens have really seen the proposed budget cuts.

g8trgrl
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Redistricting committee

I really hope the committee does not think the board is going to follow one of their plans. They might want to look back a few years ago & find out what the last committee heard when they presented their maps to the board. "Thanks, but no thanks. We have our own ideas!" Last time the committee was comprised of a person from each school - that made sense. Poor committee.....

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