Parents have their say at first school redistricting meeting

A group of more than 400 parents turned out Aug. 30 to have their say on what school boundaries lines should look like if the Fayette County Board of Education later this year votes to close several schools in the county.

Held at Fayette County High School, the meeting began with Superintendent Jeff Bearden providing an overview of the economic conditions that led to the two current options for school closures. The majority of the time was spent with small groups of parents meeting in classrooms with members of the redistricting committee and giving their input on a variety of issues.

Bearden in recent weeks laid out the imminent need to cut up to $20 million from the 2013-2014 budget that begins next July. Bearden on Thursday night referenced the decreasing student population, the large number of empty desks resulting from that decrease, the significant drops in state and local revenues and the millions of dollars in cuts that have been made to the school system budget in recent years. Aside from what will likely be many millions of dollars in a potential variety of personnel cuts, one of the few remaining areas to save money is with school closures.

And it is the potential for closing some of the county’s school that led to the formation of a redistricting committee to make recommendations, not on school closures, but on what the school boundaries would look like if either of two school closure options is adopted by the school board later this year. The public meeting and the input from it represented the first step in making recommendations for the potential new boundaries.

Parents and others from the community retired to classrooms in groups of approximately 25 after Bearden’s presentation had concluded. It was in those settings that a variety of questions and concerns were voiced. Some referenced the topic of possible changes in school boundaries, though many of the comments dealt with issues other than school boundaries.

Once in the classrooms, redistricting committee members explained that their charge was first to get input on potential new school boundaries and then, in the coming weeks, to work on proposed boundaries for Option 1 followed proposals for Option 2.

The first option would close Fayette Middle School, Hood Avenue Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and open Rivers Elementary to accommodate most of the children from the two elementary schools on Hood Avenue.

A second option would close Fayette Middle, consolidate Fayetteville Intermediate and Hood Avenue administratively at the existing campus, leave Rivers as it is now serving some of the county special education students, close Tyrone Elementary and close Brooks Elementary.

A parent in one of the classrooms asked how high redistricting is on the school system’s agenda and whether it should apply to all schools or just those inlcuded in the two options.

Another parent asked why there was talk about closing schools when doing so would not come close to solving the school system’s financial problems.

A parent in another classroom asked how many schools redistricting would affect. The committee member in response said that answer is not yet known.

Parents in a number of classrooms appeared to be the same school or neighborhood. In some of those cases, they expressed the need to have the neighborhood all attend the same school.

In yet another classroom, one parent suggested that the school system look at the entire county, and not be hesitant to look at possible closures in Peachtree City.

Bearden while in one of the classrooms suggested that the parents of children attending Fayetteville Intermediate and Hood Avenue Primary should visit Rivers Elementary.

Once compiled in the next few days, the input from the meeting will be posted on the school system’s website at www.fcboe.org

kingswood48
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Go bold or go home!

Both of these proposals are ridiculous in their attempt to put a finger in the hole in the dam as the water pours over the top. Ladies and Gentlemen of this County, we face a $20 million shortfall with a budget of $177 million. Dr. Bearden says we save $800,000 when we close a school. Now look at the proposals above. What do you see? Doesn't look like a lot of cost cutting to me! Now look at the attendance numbers for all of the schools in the county.

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4067&AID=3...

At a minimum, 5 schools, Brooks, Tyrone, Hood Ave, Fayette Intermediate, and Fayette Middle should be closed and Rivers opened. Nobody wants to close any school, but we have to face reality. The whole county would be redistricted and empty seats throughout the system will be filled. Look at the numbers.....there is plenty of room for all of these students. If empty seats are not filled this year, we will be right back here next year discussing what schools need to be closed to offset next year's budget shortfall. I really don't think we will need to hold empty seats open now for a growing school population anytime soon. We are a County school system and everyone needs to have "skin in the game." Let's get all of the screaming and hollering that will happen whenever the word "redistrict" is used behind us for a while and let the students get settled into their new school. (I think they adapt better than their parents) More schools will have to be closed.....it is inevitable, unless you truly believe the economy and all of our home values are going to come roaring back next year! School closings will not come close to the $20 million shortfall, but every dollar from every conceivable source needs to be found. Big time changes are coming folks and we would be naive to believe that the larger class sizes, reduced school days, and loss of quality personnel is not going to affect the education of our children.
Residents of this County should demand that Dr. Bearden go back to the drawing board and bring forth a more reasonable school closing proposal. This is already an issue that should have been addressed last year and implemented this school year. The time to be timid is over...go bold and show real leadership!

Larry Sussberg
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Steve Brown

Steve
You have made some excellent points, thank you!

There are tough decisions to be made...that very well might include another E-Splost BUT ONLY once we get the system in-line where it needs to be.

As a parent, I know you want the best education possible for your children, and, personally, as "almost retired" person with no children in the school system, I still believe that the education of our children is a top priority to keeping America safe and prosperous.

Let's not short change our children due to the errors made by others or because we don't have children currently in the schools. We need to think about this as a community and do what's best.

Thanks
Larry

Steve Brown
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How we got here.

Thee overview of the "economic conditions" that led to the two current options for school closures at the meeting was incorrect on some points and correct on others.

There is a significant history of really bad decisions from the FCBOE. Those decisions were also quite expensive.

Yes, the poor economy and cuts from the state added fuel to our fire, but please know that the fire was blazing well before the economy soured.

We have a significant problem at the present time. The superintendent's plan on school closures will not resolve the problem, not even close. Personally, I see a number of problems being created down the road from the closure of the Fayetteville schools (the ones we pays millions to retrofit).

It is obvious that we are now to the point, backed into a corner, where there will have to be a major reduction in the number of teachers and, most likely, abolishing of most parapros.

We cannot undo the poor decisions of the past, but we can take the direct action required to save the system now. It will be painful, but we had better find the guts to do what must be done.

tonto707
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SO

what action do you plan to take, Steve?

Steve Brown
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Tonto707 - actions to take

It is obviously going to have to be a mix of things. We are going to have to get way out of the traditional box on our thinking as well.

1. Rebuild a trusting relationship with the taxpayers. Convince everyone the days of the FCBOE participating in the speculative real estate market are over. Prove to us there will be no off-budget spending like we witnessed over the past decade.

The FCBOE flat-out lied to the Senior Citizens when the bonds were passed. Those eligible for exemptions on the bonds ended up paying the debt service through the ESPLOST that followed. You cannot pull stuff like that and expect people to join you the next time.

I recall Janet Smola stating on one of the ESPLOST efforts that they wanted to keep the project list vague to promote flexibility - wrong answer!

Am I going to support the ESPLOST? Show me I can trust the process. They have not done it yet. And let's be honest and say the annual revenue from an ESPLOST at today's levels is not going to solve your problems either.

2. I would attempt to sell Inman Elementary to a growing private school like Landmark Christian. Inman is in a horrible location to serve the public school population. It is not near a population center and that will continue to cause problems with districting in the future.

3. Close at least four schools (pick'em). If you open Rivers Elementary, close five schools. Your problem is that residential development will begin on the West Fayetteville Bypass and then what are you going to do with the kids from Fayetteville?

4. Delete some top administrative positions. The pain has to be shared. Or you could do across the board administrative pay cuts (think double digits).

5. Teachers positions will have to be abolished. The money is in the human component. You used to hear that the "Fayette teachers aren't going anywhere," but that's not the case any longer. Other counties are starting to look pretty darn good.

6. The parapros come almost totally out of the budget with no support from the state. I just don't see how the FCBOE can keep them.

7. Buy only absolutely essential technology. The teachers do the work and we can do without the $2,000 Smart Boards.

8. Look at creative ways to unload unused FCBOE property for cash. I am currently looking at one site that the county might be able to move on.

9. For now, it appears that redistricting is going to increase transportation costs. We cannot let that happen.

10. Take the top 10 largest expenses in each schools' budget and look at ways to cut them down.

11. Contract private landscaping and the like.

12. Come up with a way to disable half the parking lot lights at the schools if there is no night time activity taking place.

13. Examine ways for student families to pay for the expense of extracurricular activities on a needs basis.

These are suggestions without even looking at the budget line item by line item. Of course, I will never be selected to be on that committee.

Prolonging the process over several years, I believe, will hurt more than help.

suggarfoot
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Thank you Steve

You are right, it is going to take a lot. Missmanagment by a few uneducated have cause misery for all for many more years. Coweta has reserves and is in good shape and moving ahead.

Those seniors at that meeting were still trying to help. But as mudcat said, we ain't helping with our money. We paid into the system for many years. I can still remember when we pushed back those hell bent on asto turf and swimming pools at schools cause some on the BOE had swimmers. They acted like it was raining money.

Thank goodness the county got two very qualified people elected instead who they saw at the PTO meetings. You notice I said qualified, they are not magicians.

suggarfoot
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Thank you Steve

You are right, it is going to take a lot. Missmanagment by a few uneducated have cause misery for all for many more years. Coweta has reserves and is in good shape and moving ahead.

Those seniors at that meeting were still trying to help. But as mudcat said, we ain't helping with our money. We paid into the system for many years. I can still remember when we pushed back those hell bent on asto turf and swimming pools at schools cause some on the BOE had swimmers. They acted like it was raining money.

Thank goodness the county got two very qualified people elected instead who they saw at the PTO meetings. You notice I said qualified, they are not magicians.

AtHomeGym
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how we got here & teachers

Teachers should only go AFTER Central Ofc Staff AND Asst Principals!

wanttoknow
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Get some common sense and your head out of the sand!

Suggafoot....I'm guessing you've totally forgotten that the value of your Fayco property is directly linked to the perceived quality of our school system. The financial problems with our school system didn't begin 10 year ago as you say. They began with the collapse of the real estate and financial markets in 2007 that caused a recession, massive job losses that caused many families to lose their homes and or the ability to get financing to buy homes in our county and a large reduction in tax revenues due to droping in home values and foreclosures. If you thought the West By Pass was your biggest problems in the valuation of your home, you need to imagine what would happen if our school system goes down the toilet.

I no longer have children attending schools in this county but they and our school system have my full support. How about proving just how you really have the well being of our community 1st by putting Education of the Children of our community as your top priority. You can start by trying to find positive solutions to the problems we have instead of your constant negativity. If you are intending on continuing to be a resident of Fayette County, those of us in the "Younger Generation" expect you to contribute your fair share to educate the kids of our community, regardless of your age or political beliefs. None of us is going to agree with everyway our tax dollars are spent or what the money is spent on, however the taxes collected are for the benefit of all the citizens in this county, INCLUDING THE KIDS! It's long been proven that the quality of a community's education system is the key to financial stability. I'm glad that "Our younger generation" hasn't tossed you and your senior friends out to pasture. Instead, we continue to foot bills with our tax payments to build citizen centers, suuport SSI & medicare benefits, etc. knowing all along that we'll never reap the benefits that you're currently receiving. I'm personally glad we're not as self centered as you seem to be. If you put the kids in our county out to dry, they may one day do the same to the you and the seniors of Fayette.

mudcat
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Stop picking on sugarfoot, wanttoknow. She's sensitive.

So am I. Although not quite a senior, I will be happy to chime in and support the position that seniors or almost seniors and many others who already have common sense will not under any circumstances vote themselves a tax increase to bail out a failing and poorly managed school system that spent almost all of it reserves and hasn't even considered serious spending cuts yet. The answer is NO, NO, NO to an increase. Get over it and move on to cutting expenses. And senior-bashing is a very slippery slope to start down in this county. Watch it, dude.

And thinking that your house value is your most important asset or that the value of that house is tied to the quality of the school system are two false premises. The 30% decrease in value of my house had nothing to do with the school system and anybody with a sliver of responsibility knows that their most valuable asset is their retirement savings (if held in gold and silver) or perhaps the emergency food or water hoarded for the upcoming revolution. The 80's and even the 90's are over. Sellling your house will be more like selling a car or a boat and very few will ever do it. They'll just pass it down to the next generation - if there is one. You may want to adjust your mindset.

Here's 2 ideas for you:
1. Shrink the whole school system down to about half the current size. Lose half the buildings, teachers and staff. Hint, hint. No one is moving in and the population is aging.
2. Stop teaching revisionist history and political correctness. We all might care a little more if the school system really was sincere about truly educating the kids instead of simply complying with these warped directives that come from our government and creating more local government jobs for teachers, administrators and assistant principals.

suggarfoot
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Thank you mudcat

You made very good points.

Larry Sussberg
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NUK_1

Thank you for the correction....
Glad you agree that this needs a wide audience and participation.

This one we need to do right - for the kids.

The personal attacks need to stop...it started wth Presberg, followed to Bearden and now Brock.

Personally, I don't care how many times they have married, what political party they belong to or what their religion is, yet that has all been brought up.

NUK_1
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Larry: Agreed

Political affiliation, marriages, religion....those aren't the major issues facing the FC BOE or our children these days. Up to 20mil in cuts being needed in a year really makes a lot of the other stuff background noise that distracts from the real discussion and rather harsh cuts that are going to have to be made.

Larry Sussberg
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Fayette County Schools

Its great to see so many people turned out for this event.
Our children's education is too important and people from throughout this county need to be involved.

This should not be a conversation controlled by retired people who belong to the Fayette Tea Party with no kids in the schools. The only agenda should not be to strip the school system down where are children do not receive the 21st century education they deserve.

What is the 21 century education?
Read Tony Wagner's book entitled The Achievement Gap.

suggarfoot
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'those seniors and the school system"

"This should not be a conversation controlled by retired people who belong to the Fayette Tea Party with no kids in the schools"

Those senior have been trying to get the younger in the county to pay attention for at least 10 years ( I know cause I was one of them) The answer was that none of you..CARED.. enough because your kids weren't of age to be affected. Now they are and now have your panties in a wad. The time for that was several years ago when you sat by. If you now think the seniors are going to chip in and pay taxes to get the system out of debt...guess again.

You wouldn't deal with it before it got to this point...deal with it now...we told you so!

Larry Sussberg
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Suggarfoot

I thought it was our responsiblity to leave the next generation our country in a better position the same way our parents (the generation that fought WWII) did for us.

Also, Isn't it our generation that didn't listen that created this mess?

suggarfoot
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apathy

My kid is thankfully out of the system. I preached to all with kids still in that Smola, Smith, and Wright were ruining the schools.

IT is by no means the seniors fault the system is in this shape. It is the fault of everyone who sat by and felt like letting someone else handle the problem, or that it would just go away.

Sorry, Seniors aren't gonna pay for this or take the rap for it.

PTC Observer
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Larry - Do

Do "retired people" aka seniors pay school taxes? I thought they were dropped or had their school taxes reduced.

If anything they should be there to improve the school system, not diminish it. After all the most important single asset they have is their home.

Larry Sussberg
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PTCO

They do unless it's an E-Splost.

You are right about children being our biggest asset.

What concerns me it the chain of events that first started as an attack on Mr. Presberg over total nonsense, followed by attacks on Ms Hill the comptroller of the schools that she is not competent in budgeting where last minute cuts from the state has impacted the budget. Now we recent have seen attacks on Dr Bearden.

Feels very similar to the recent tactics used on Huddleston and Hearn?

What do you think?

NUK_1
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Larry: BOE

I think everyone is FC has a vested interest in the quality of the school system and the crisis is too grave to exclude anyone right from the start of a discussion on how to fix it.

Also, the comptroller is Laura Brock, not Hill. Her forecasts were extremely wrong by a grand 9million last year and have been consistently wrong over the past few years, which is why we had teacher pay cuts, then restored, now cut again. It wasn't due to last minute state funding reductions that her forecasts have been so off.