The Tucker Parent Council (TPC) met Monday, only hours after the release of the report from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the division of AdvancED responsible for the accreditation of schools in the South.
There were approximately 25 parents and community members at the meeting held at Midvale Elementary School, just off LaVista Road in Tucker. Most of those in attendance represented Livsey Elementary School.
The TPC's guest was Cynthia Brictson, Region II Superintendent for DeKalb County Schools. Also present were Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan, two of the three incoming board members who are scheduled to take their posts Jan. 7, 2013.
Brictson mainly took notes and made offers to carry the sentiment of the group back to the Administration, but expressed repeatedly that the main method for communicating the dissatisfaction of the community was to sign up and attend a public meeting scheduled for January 15. She added that there were only 30 time slots of two minutes each available so it would be necessary to sign up as soon as possible. She also mentioned that in order to make it clear how the Tucker community felt, it would be beneficial if more than one person from the area was able to speak.
"The board needs to hear from you," Brictson said. "And they need to hear from you more than once."
Several comments were made regarding the fact that there was no educational merit to the proposal for any of the schools slated to be decommissioned or redistricted.
Other comments suggested the only purpose of closing schools such as Livsey is for the short term benefit of securing bonds so that some projects can be moved up on the priority list. That list has been subject to controversy because it was not approved by voters at the time of the SPLOST IV vote last November.
Livsey Elementary School has been among the top performing elementary schools in the district and is highly supported by its immediate community. The students outperform the district and state averages on standardized testing year after year.
Several people asked why any administration would want to tear down a school that is working rather than expand it or duplicate its model. Brictson did not have any answers, further frustrating the group who remained even longer than the scheduled two hours.
"We know that we probably will not be here forever," said an attendee who added that he is a product of DeKalb Schools, graduating from Druid Hills High School in 1975. He said that back then DeKalb was known for being one of the best school systems not only in Georgia, but in the nation. "It's heartbreaking to see what it has turned into," he said. "We know that the larger schools are the direction the district is going and it is sad for some of us, but we will get over it. The point is that this whole plan is not in the best interest of the children and has no educational benefit to it whatsoever."
The time-frame discussed by the Superintendent and the BOE during their last official public meeting was a Jan. 7 vote on the overall plan followed by Jan. 15 as a date for public feedback. After that, Jan. 23 will be the date of the final vote by the new BOE now under Probation from SACS and the watchful eye of almost everyone in the county.
SACS will return to monitor DeKalb's progress in May with another visit in Dec. 2013. That is one short year for a problematic school system to right its own course - a downslide that took 10 years of mismanagement to create.
However, State Senator Fran Millar released a statement today that indicated there is no state pressure for DeKalb to redistrict. "Approval is not contingent on DeKalb redistricting and DeKalb can actually amend an approved plan at a later date," Millar said in a Dunwoody Crier article today. "The state may be blamed for many things but not for how redistricting is done by a school system."
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Is there an educational benefit to merging Livsey and Smoke Rise Elementary Schools? How should the Livsey community respond to the administration's advice to repeat the same steps as the last redistricting in light of the SACS findings? Tell us in the comments section below-