Mon
Apr 23 2007
02:24 pm

Just received this press release from Lisa Starbuck...

New School Rezoning Forum Announced

A coalition of parents and neighborhood organizations from across Knox County announces a community-driven county-wide forum to discuss the proposed school rezonings. The forum will be held at the Knoxville Expo Center, 5441 Clinton Highway, on Thursday, April 26th, 2007 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The coalition consists of parents and neighborhood groups in Knox County who are not satisfied with the level of community and parental involvement in deciding this important issue.

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The purpose of the forum is to solicit from citizens their unanswered questions about the rezoning proposal that are specific to their individual school communities, to speak with one voice in urging postponement of the school board's vote on the proposal, and to advocate for a new process more inclusive of citizens in addressing those questions the proposal seeks to answer.

In addition, the organizers will present an introduction to the advantages of good community planning and how citizens can become more involved in the process. The agenda will include a discussion of the underlying linkages between the current chaotic rezoning process, the perils of uncoordinated school and community planning, inappropriate land and residential development approvals, and the benefits of meaningful citizen input.

One of the forum’s organizers, Powell resident and longtime schools activist Tamara Shepherd, said, “This proposed school rezoning plan is a band-aid, not a real solution for the problem. The proposed plan will not address many of the underlying deficiencies of our current school zoning plan and it is being undertaken without understanding of the long-term effects of their actions. Changing communities around in this manner has significant implications throughout our county.”

Sharon Davis, president of Town Hall East, feels that while some opportunities for public comment have been provided, most people in her neighborhood feel their message is not being taken seriously. “The proposed rezoning plan will tear apart our neighborhood and I know many other communities in Knox County feel the same way,” Davis said. “The public comment period is too short and does not involve residents in a meaningful way. There is not enough time between the forums and the board vote for them to take all of our concerns into account.”

Lisa Starbuck, president of Northeast Knox Preservation Association says, “Even if your child is not affected by the current high school rezonings, just wait. The school board has already announced that rezonings for middle school and elementary schools are just around the corner. The time to fix the problem is now.”

The group hopes to encourage involvement in a new citizen initiative advocating for better schools and planned growth. Civic activist Bob Wolfenbarger puts it this way: “As parents and members of the community, we have a responsibility to our children to give them the best education we possibly can. We would like to identify those people who want to be involved in a process to make a positive change in our schools, then bring them together to seek solutions.”

The group is directing citizens to (link...) for those wishing to join a rezoning e-mail list and for more information.

CONTACTS:

Tamara Shepherd – 947-0660 (Powell Community)
Sharon Davis – 525-1242 (Holston/Chilhowee Community)
Lisa Starbuck – 659-5708 (Ritta/Gibbs Community)
Bob Wolfenbarger – 521-6566 (Alice Bell/Spring Hill Community)
Susanne Bentley – 540-4000 (Carter Community)
Pamela Treacy – 567-1960 (Farragut Community)
Cathy McCaughan – 742-4242 or Doug McCaughan – 898-7189 (Bearden Community)

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Tamara Shepherd's picture

Countywide School Rezoning Forum Tonight

Please join us at tonight's countywide forum on the subject of the proposed systemwide school rezoning.

FYI, this event will NOT take the form of a rally, nor will it speak to any community-specifc concerns attendees may bring.

Instead, the thrust of the program to be delivered is three-fold: To assert that the proposal does not satisfy Knox County Schools' stated goals of problems to be remedied through systemwide rezoning, to assert that the process chosen by KCS has been exclusionary, and to question how it is that KCS has come to this unprecedented conclusion that it is the task of the school system to "chase" undirected residential development.

Join us, then, at the time and place Randy shares above.

trion23's picture

How did the meeting go?

Hello. My name is Chris Atkins. My family lives on East Beaver Creek Drive, and we are slated to be rezoned to Central High School unless we can convince our school board members otherwise. We were unable to attend the meeting at the Expo Center yesterday, but I was wondering if you could give us a report about how the meeting went. Was it well attended? Were attendees from different areas well united (a key if we want to defeat this proposed rezoning)?

We did attend the meeting at Powell High School on Tuesday. My wife (who is a Knox County teacher) spoke briefly and asked why the schools that are failing NCLB standards were being fed MORE students. I strongly believe this is bad policy and counter productive in trying to improve those schools.

For the record, we have three children (10 years, 7 years, and 16 months) who are not about to enter high school, but this rezoning still effects us dramatically. Central High School is more than twice as long a drive as Powell from our house and requires crossing dangerous Broadway, while we can get to Powell using only easy backroads (just Beaver Creek to Brickyard and enter through the back entrance).

I have not had an opportunity to sign any kind of petition against this rezoning proposal (although my wife has), nor have I filled out any kind of survey. I would be happy to do this, or whatever else I can do to try to help stop this haphazard rezoning.

Anyone who wants to contact me via email regarding this is welcome.

Thanks!

Chris Atkins
trion231@yahoo.com

knoxnative's picture

County Wide Meeting Recap

Chris -

I believe the forum was a success; over 100 people showed up and many of them signed up to participate in a new process. It had a completely different format than all the other forums in that the organizers decided to collect opinions from the audience only via the survey and encouraged them to join together to ask the school board for a new, inclusive process.

The other forums were basically just one parent after another standing up to say why they didn't like the plan and how it was going to affect little Johnny or little Susie. Not very productive in terms of effecting a change by the school board.

The thrust of the message was that the reason we are in the predicament of having a new high school that no one wants to go to is because of a lack of participation and buy-in on the front-end by parents and residents. To avoid much of the controversy of the high school rezonings (and upcoming elementary and middle school rezonings), the board should scrap the plan (instead of all the tweaking currently ongoing) and start over with ALL the options on the table, and with the enthusiastic participation of area residents.

Many other rezoning processes exist out there where other counties have wrestled with the problem of managing school zones. There are a lot of ideas that could include open zoning, turning HVHS into a new kind of magnet, making it a school for grades 9 and 10 and turning Farragut into grades 11 and 12, making it a new middle school, making a "school within a school" etc.

You can get on the mailing list, see the meeting agenda and review the powerpoint presentation from the meeting at the knoxschools.info web site. Send an e-mail to info@knoxschools.info if you want to get involved with specific actions to stop the current plan.

trion23's picture

County Wide Meeting

Thanks for the reply. I actually already signed up for the mailing list last week. I agree that the school board should vote this plan down and start over with input from communities and parents. This rezoning plan should never have happened "behind closed doors", apparently without even the input from school board members themselves.

I am happy to see the revisions to the plan late last week, particularly their not rezoning part of Holston Hills to Austin-East. However,I really have the feeling that these moves were just "playing politics" and attempting to pick up two more school board member votes. Hopefully we can still convince enough school board members to reject the plan or at least to make adequate revisions to the plan for it to work for most everyone.

Thanks,

Chris Atkins
trion231@yahoo.com

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