Monday, April 28, 2008

Parents start petition over Dunwoody 4th-5th Grade Academy Concerns

Dunwoody elementary school parents from Austin, Vanderlyn, Chesnut and Kingsley are ready to start passing a petition based on the concerns they have over the proposed Dunwoody Academy listed below. These concerned parents also hope to meet with the Hightower community in order to include them into the discussions. While they truly appreciate the efforts of the school system, the concerned parents believe this Academy compromise is not the best solution for the Dunwoody cluster and they want them to go back to the drawing board.

If you are a Dunwoody homeowner or a parent of an elementary school child be prepared to sign this petition. If you are a member of the school board or an administrator of the school system, please be prepared to address these concerns.

• The overcrowding problem in our cluster needs to be treated as a cluster-wide problem and therefore needs a cluster-wide solution. It seems unreasonable that the proposed “Academy” leaves two of our schools still over capacity...Austin and Vanderlyn at 111% capacity. If this issue were seen as a cluster-wide problem, then an under populated school would not be located less than 2 miles from an overcrowded school, while simultaneously spending several million tax dollars to construct a new school only one mile away. The ONLY equitable solution is to redraw the attendance lines so that every school in our cluster is sufficiently utilized, and all of our students have the same opportunities for a quality education.

• Will Kingsley, Hightower, and the Academy be “receiving schools” because they are under capacity? If so, then while some of our cluster schools are over crowded, other cluster schools will receive students? How does this solve the over crowding problem in our cluster?

• If the Academy concept is the better choice academically, then why aren’t the Kingsley and Hightower students included! Why isn’t this new standard for all of DeKalb County? Parents who are praising the benefits of the new academy – full-fledged music programs, state-of-the art science labs, foreign language instruction for all, etc. – should see the unfairness of offering these benefits to only a portion of our students?

• This additional layer of 4 schools...will add to difficult task of coordinating school events like Open Houses, PTA meeting, etc. Not to mention asking too much of our community with fundraising, Partners in Education, and donations!!!

• How many homerooms will there at the Academy...15+ classes??? The teachers and students work very hard to form a class relationship. This is challenging enough with a class of 80, thus it will be impossible with a class of well over 300. This Academy changes the whole dynamics and identity of their grade. It is forcing them into a middle school type setting as 4th and 5th graders. Academically and socially that is a lot to "compete" with at this age. It is essential that we remember that these students are still children. There is absolutely no need to rush them growing up -- society does enough of that already. If we simply replicate a middle school model, we are doing a huge disservice to the children.

• Will testing be a problem? Since we seem to be teaching to the test these effort to coordinate between Austin, Vanderlyn and Chesnut will be make sure nothing is missed when they switch to another school for 4-5 grade?

• Will there really be enough points to have chorus, band and orchestra teachers? Will the Austin students continue German? What about Spanish for Vanderlyn and Chesnut students? Will the 4th-5th Austin/Vanderlyn/Chesnut teachers become the teachers at the new school...or is that only a possibility?

• Fourth and Fifth grade students will not be the “leaders” in their school, because they will be the only students in their school. Leadership and being a role model is so important. With all the patrol, 5th grade celebration, fifth grade trip, space camp, student government, announcements in the morning, mentor to beginning readers...all add to the concrete experience of growing up and "leading". This is equally as important to the younger students of the school; they look up to these older students as role models!

• Patrols are actually very helpful both to students, parents and teachers. Patrols open car doors and school doors; the large doors are too heavy for younger smaller students. Plus, the patrols take their monitoring very seriously...escorting younger children to the trailers in the mornings, helping to keep the students quiet and safe. If we take the patrols away, the teachers will have less time to prepare for class, etc. The patrols work both morning and afternoon shifts. These approximately 30 patrols will need to be replaced by teachers and staff, because certainly this role can’t be performed by 3rd graders.

• At PCMS, we have a very difficult time filling PTA (PTCC) positions with just 3 short’s going to be almost impossible to do this in just 2 years (two year terms especially). We also think that it will weaken the elementary level PTA. Typically, committee heads are filled with parents of older students. The PTAs from the elementary schools will need to work together and be willing to allocate funds to “start up” the new school’s PTA, plus slate officers while still in elementary school for the fall. Now we will be asking parents to divide their time again, remember these parents are volunteers...if the process gets too difficult...they will not be supportive and simply will not volunteer!

• Fourth and fifth grade students will not be attending their “neighborhood school”. These students really enjoy walking and riding their bikes to and from school because they are finally “old enough”. This independence will be lost riding the bus.

• Gas prices are going up...yet we are not staying in our neighborhoods for school to conserve gas! This also impacts our air quality! Isn’t this contrary to Dekalb becoming a Green School System?

• What about those children that don’t ride the bus to their elementary school? How will parents walk one child to the elementary school, and get the other child ready for the “Academy”?

• A 4-tier bus system won’t be necessary...yet will more buses be purchased??? 90% of the students attending Austin are walkers, they are not on a bus, so additional buses will be necessary to transport these students. Won’t it cost the county more to provide additional buses?

• Is it really realistic to expect students to arrive at school 45 minutes early...assuming that the K-3 students are dropped off first, then 4th-5th are dropped off (or visa versa)? Sitting in the cafeteria waiting for school to start is not an acceptable solution.

• Many families choose to drive (rather than use the bus) in the morning, because they don’t want their students sitting in the cafeteria unnecessarily. Won’t it waste the county money to spend more in gas for those buses to travel farther to pick up children in buses that will be less than full?

• This will force even MORE cars onto the road, further aggravating the traffic on Roberts Drive with the morning commuters, plus the Austin, Davis Academy, and Dunwoody Springs parents. The traffic in the Womack – Vermack area will be a nightmare with Georgia Perimeter, DHS, Vanderlyn...and now parents carpooling from the Chesnut and Austin school districts.

• Will they need to make any modifications to the new school design??? Certain areas were designed for specific ages. This should be an easy fix...but it’s still a change and all change orders cost money and time. Thus, will the new school really be ready by 2009?


Anonymous said...

I have lived in Dunwoody area my entire life. My children now attend the public schools in Dunwoody. I honestly have to say that this generation of parents is the whinest bunch of parents I have ever come across. I find this academy solution most acceptable. The points in this article are irrelevant to the type of education that our children will receive – and this should the most important argument. Riding the bus, having to actually “work” to schedule PTA meetings, open houses, how many homerooms, patrols, etc., are minor issues that can addressed. It seems from this “editorial”, that this is all about the inconvenience for the parents, rather than is this the right solutions for our children. Let’s face it - there is no solution that will make everyone happy. Let's get behind Dr. Crawford - he is doing the best that he can to be sensitive to the parental "whining" in Dunwoody, while making sure our children's education is the priority.

pmyost said...

I only wish this was about our children's education. The hard truth is that it is about the DeKalb County school system caving, once again, to the demands of some Dunwoody homeowners concerned about their property values and the potential negative impact on those values if attendance lines are redrawn in the Dunwoody cluster elementary schools. I know of families who were very vocal opponents of the original redistricting plan for the new school yet send their children to private school. Do we really think their concern is for the quality of education in these public schools? A few years ago a neighborhood within the Kingsley attendance area was on the drawing board. The builder petitioned the school system (under the "leadership" of former Supt. Johnny Brown) to redraw the lines to include the neighborhood in the Vanderlyn area so that the houses could be listed at a higher price. The school system acquiesced, even though Vanderlyn was already overcrowded. I dare say the money that undoubtedly changed hands had more to do with the decision than any concerns about education.

If the new academy is indeed the "right" solution for our chidren, why are the Kingsley and Hightower 4th and 5th graders being left out? Are they somehow less deserving of this wonderful opportunity than their counterparts at the other schools?

Dunwoodyinfoguy said...

I know that there is a lot of concern among some parents over the concept of having a separate school for 4th and 5th graders. Transportation and logistics are concerns and need to be factored in. I want to encourage parents to keep an open mind, though. Both of my children went to Austin and then left Austin to go to Kittredge. Having a school that separates the little kids from the pre-teens has real advantages. When you get the older kids together and focus on them separately you can establish different expectations. You can set different expectations for behavior; you can set dress codes differently; you can gear PE differently and install more appropriate outdoor equipment. You can set aside practice and performance spaces for more directed activities and integrate more computer technology. I encourage parents to give this approach a chance. It may work out better than they think.

K Mom said...

I love the comments! They are right on! The bottom line is our childrens' education! Are you really going to whine about your SUV guzzling gas as you pass the bus on their way to school? Let's stop coddling our children. Go green! Make concessions to save the planet!

I, too, have a student that went to Kittredge. The organizational skills my child has learned are invaluable. The school has a great atmosphere. If she wanted to enter PCMS in sixth grade, she'd be ready.

My only complaint is that Kingsley wasn't included. As a Kingsley parent, it really felt like a slap in the face. I love Kingsley but the academy will be better. If my next two children don't get into Kittredge in 4th grade (because getting in is a crapshoot), I will find a way to get them into the academy. Why? Because I truly believe the academy will be a great educational plus to our community. Change CAN be good!

VandyDad said...

It seems to me that a school unifying three of the elementary schools (Chestnut, Vanderlyn, and Austin) for a 4th and 5th grade academy makes a lot of sense, and I commend the Board of Education for their creative solution. As Dunwoody takes steps to become a city, this action will help unite these three elementary districts as parents will come together at an earlier time in their children's' lives.
This new solution maintains, fundamentally, the school districts that the children have grown with, while combining them with their peers at two other schools in the Dunwoody cluster at an earlier point in their education. This will make the transition to Middle School easier for them.
I believe that as Dunwoody comes together, its citizens need to work together to achieve the best possible education for ALL of its children. I find it ironic that a relatively small group of homeowners living in close proximity to Austin and Vanderlyn, attempting to maintain an exclusive air to their schools, would imply that those of us who are excited about the prospect of a 4th and 5th grade academy are interested in anything other than what is best for our children's education and for Dunwoody as a WHOLE community. I thank Dr. Lewis, Mrs. Steele, Jim Redovian and their associates for their thoughtful initiative. This academy is an excellent solution - certainly the one that is best for our community as a whole.

jimzx said...

I do not understand.... The new lines proposed 7 months ago made alot of sense. Why has everything changed all of a sudden with this new school for 4th-5th grade? The main issue was overcrowding at Austin and Vanderlyn due to dramatic population growth in the Dunwoody area. The initial plan solved the problem of overcrowding. Now 7 months later we are talking about keeping the lines the same and building a new school for 4th and 5th grade only? This does nothing to solve the problem!!!!! The schools will still be overcrowded and the growth rate in the Dunwoody area is not going to slow down..... This is a wonderful place to live, but with this kind of mentality get ready for 50% of the children in the school, and 50% of the children in the trailers......

Loc said...

Regarding yesterday's dunwoody chamblee parents council, it's troubling and unfortunate when you have such meetings dominated by a state represenative. These meetings are supposed to be about the parents and the schools. I don't like the tactics used by one of our local state reps and it is unlikey he'll get another vote of mine after his performance yesterday.

I'm simply troubled when I see our state reps intervening in this way in local school issues. I trust Jim Redovian, Dr. Lewis, and our parents to diaglog about what's best for Dunwoody schools.