Decatur BOE candidates weigh in on rezoning
Local elections are Tuesday, Nov. 5. There’s one contested race in Decatur, Ga: City Schools of Decatur Board of Education District 1 Post A.
Mark Arnold and Lewis Jones are both running for the seat. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you don’t know where to vote or if you’d like to obtain a sample ballot, visit the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page by clicking here.
As the election season winds down, City Schools of Decatur is in the middle of redrawing school attendance zones to accommodate the reopening of Westchester Elementary in 2014. Several issues have bubbled up during meetings about the rezoning, including questions about whether the city’s 4/5 Academy and elementary schools should become K-5 schools. (Currently the system is K-3, with an early learning center and 4/5 Academy, which serves fourth and fifth grades.)
Decaturish.com sent both BOE candidates three questions about the rezoning process. Here are their answers.
1) What is your position on the current school rezoning process in anticipation of the reopening of Westchester Elementary? My opinion is that we need to let the rezoning committee do its work. This is an iterative process, and we’re still in the middle of it, and the committee is working hard to respond to comments. That said, I think the committee needs to adopt “keeping neighborhoods together” as one of its driving principles. So far, the committee has identified 3 criteria for the rezoning — equity, capacity, and walkability. Walkability is important, but it doesn’t capture the concept of keeping neighborhoods together, so I think this needs to be added as a 4th criterion.
2) Do you think that the system should return to K-5? I am not wedded to the 4-5 configuration, but I am not motivated to change it, either. A wide range of benefits have been attributed to the current configuration. It is very difficult to separate cause from effect, but I am persuaded that at least some of these benefits are real, and I would want to examine the data much more carefully than I have at this time before making any decision. Because I put a high value on stability, I would not want to change the current figuration unless very good reasons are presented for doing so. I do wonder, however, if returning FAVE to k-5 would give us 6 balanced K-5s, with 3 in the north and 3 in the south. I do not know if the math works, but I would consider the option if it does.
3) What do you think of the current 4/5 Academy school in CSD? If the question is how I feel about the 4-5 configuration, see above. If the question is whether FAVE could do a better job configured as it is, I think there’s always room for improvement, and this is an area where School Leadership Teams should take the lead.
1) What is your position on the current school rezoning process in anticipation of the reopening of Westchester Elementary? The board has developed a very good and comprehensive process. Every effected community is represented in the process and the redistricting committee is actively soliciting community input. We should allow the committee to complete their work and present a recommendation. The composition of the redistricting committee (parents, SLTs, community members, teachers, and administrators) ensures that all views and perspectives will be heard and should produce a result that most consider fair.
2) Do you think that the system should return to K-5?
3) What do you think of the current 4/5 Academy school in CSD? My response to Questions 2& 3 is combined.
During this campaign I have talked to hundreds of parents and residents in Decatur. Parents often raised the question of converting the 4/5 to a K-5. While no single configuration has universal appeal, I found far greater positive sentiment for the current configuration of four, soon to be five, K-3 schools and one 4/5 than for reverting to K-5. Since the results of the 2001 – 2002 Georgia Public Education Report Card, System and School Rankings (see table below) City Schools of Decatur has recorded extraordinary achievement in 4th grade academic achievement. Based on the results of the 2012 CRCT for Grade 4, City Schools of Decatur ranked 6th in reading and 23rd in math amongst all school districts in the State of Georgia. Any decision concerning future configuration should heavily weigh the performance and financial benefits of the 4/5 and any alternatives should offer compelling improvements in academic achievement and be financially neutral.
(Editor’s note: This image provided by Mark Arnold.)