Fri
Apr 27 2007
11:42 pm
By: Sandra Clark  shortURL

Roy Mullins has posted a letter to school board members on the KCS Web site. The letter makes 4 concessions, designed to secure 5 votes for the rezoning plan.

Leaving the Holston Hills kids at Carter should secure support from Jim Williams (worried about a diminished enrollment at Carter) and Sam Anderson (who raised the objection at the April 18 workshop).

Concessions on grandfathering siblings and on the Bearden zone should help solidify support from Karen Carson and Dan Murphy.

There is a strong desire on the board to get this rezoning finished. Sadly, there was no concession for Powell -- the community hardest hit by the plan. -- s.

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Tamara Shepherd's picture

Hardest Hit

If adopted, the proposed plan would lob off about 1/3 of Powell's historic geographic area, on the eastern and especially the western ends of the zone, and instead draw a finger four or five miles southward to the I-640/I-75 interchange, never before considered a part of Powell.

Powell's pricier homes, which tend to be on the western end of the zone, would be lost, leaving an overabundance of Clinton Highway trailer parks in-zone. The double-whammy after losing those wealthier households would be in picking up still more trailer parks, apartments, and another subsidized apartment complex along that south-pointing finger.

Given the existing mix in housing and incomes, Powell's present student demographic is hardly pristine:

The percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students at the elementary school, for instance, runs 35%, against a county average of 39.8%--*before* losing those east- and west-end households. A subsequent influx of students from Norwood Elementary, then, where Economically Disadvantaged students number 75%, would leave a rezoned Powell Elementary's average at maybe 60 or 65%, well over the county average.

Similarly, Powell Elementary's Academic Achievement TCAP scores run A/B/C/C, slightly less favorable that the county average of A/B/B/C--*before* losing those east- and west-end households. A subsequent influx of students from Norwood Elementary, where scores are straight D's in the four subject areas, would undoubtedly cause Powell Elementary's already-lower-than-average test scores to drop lower still.

At Powell Middle, the student suspension rate already runs 16.8%, higher than the county average of 11.4%--*before* losing east and west households. An influx of students from Northwest Middle, where the 45% suspension rate is the highest among the county's middle schools, would undoubtedly cause Powell Middle's already-higher-than-average suspension rate to increase well past the county average.

Similarly, Powell Middle's Academic Achievement TCAP scores run A/A/C/C, comparable to the county average--*before* losing east and west households. An influx of students from Northwest Middle, where scores are D/D/D/F, would undoubtedly pull Powell Middle's scores well below county averages.

The picture is about the same for the Central High-to-Powell High influx, after the Powell High-to-Karns High loss. Central's suspension rate is triple the county average, the expulsion rate is quadruple the county average, and the drop-out rate is 21% against a county average of 12%.

Neither Central High, Northwest Middle, nor Norwood Elementary is in "Good Standing" under No Child Left Behind law. All three are targeted as "Schools Needing Improvement," at one degree or another.

Our earnest conversations with school board members on this subject have been to direct them to the State Report Card, to satisfy them that our existing student demographic in Powell, average to slightly below average in most areas, simply isn't strong enough to absorb and *dilute* the student demographic proposed to transfer in.

Absent that ability to *dilute* the student demographic proposed to transfer in, the rezoning would simply create two troubled schools from one. And, of course, would cause those Harbins and Hintons and Hodges I told you about, who, like me, have lived here for three generations, to drive eight miles to Karns High, rather than one or two miles to Powell High.

Ironically, the grandfathering provisions announced just today would allow my 7th grader (in 2008) to remain in this changed Powell with my high school senior--if we chose. We've talked about that option as a family, and if the proposed plan passes, it will be our choice to remain in Powell, to try to help.

So...we're here until someone buries us in our backyard.

djuggler's picture

The concessions truly are

The concessions truly are unacceptable. The plan is flawed county-wide and does not have a long lasting impact. Requiring another rezoning in 5-10 years is a mistake when we can come up with a better solution now. The concessions do not answer the questions of why no traffic impact studies have been done. The concessions do not answer issues of safety and additional mileage placed upon students, parents and buses.

These concessions are merely a predictable political play intended to swing the vote to yes. Grandfathering, a bribe, will be forgotten. In 5 years when all your children's friends are going to a different high school, will that child accept "you are going to _this_ high school because you were grandfathered in and we are concerned about the length of the drive to the other school"? None of these concessions address to the future buyer of my home why their child will drive extra miles of dangerous road to their high school when a high school is closer along safe secondary roads.

These concessions also do not address why middle and elementary rezonings are not being planned at the same time.

What is the Magnet School Task Force and are May 2 and May 16 its final meetings and if so can it be assumed a task force would end with recommendations and if so shouldn't these recommendations be considered in a rezoning plan?

Do not give in! Call ALL School Board members and tell them that we won't accept their concessions, that we need a better plan created with community involvement, and that they must vote NO on Wednesday!

rocketsquirrel's picture

i've always said

I've always said that urban decay would chase suburban sprawl. Looks like it is happening at a faster rate with the help of the school board. aggregate the economically advantaged further west while leaving the rest of the schools in the system to deal with more than their fair share of economically disadvantaged students, which has historically shown to bring those schools down, not up.

Economic desegregation NOW!

Pamela Treacy's picture

how?

Is there a way to bring more city kids to the suburban schools? Or does it only work the other way? I agree if this rezoning makes the city schools weaker, we need to fix that -- tell me more about the how.

rocketsquirrel's picture

how?

“developing theme-based high schools and academies within schools, with open enrollment across the school system.”

your suburban schools are already overcrowded and disproportionately economically advantaged. Every school needs to balance wealth and poverty. the rezonings skew this further.

source here.

Indya's picture

high school specialization

Hi Rocket Squirrel,

I support specialization for our high schools, and then, once that is truly in place, open enrollment. I also support economic integration of our schools since economic diversity helps low-income children and doesn't hurt middle and high income children. Richard Kahlenberg has done some good research to support this premise.

If we offer excellent and truly unique programs at schools like Fulton and A-E people will want to send their kids there, or better yet move here and join the community. It makes sense to offer the enriched and unique programs in schools with shrinking enrollments, not schools that are already full or in rapidly developing areas.

I also support the idea of a university high school heavily focussed on academics in a centralized location, perhaps in partnership with UT. The school would not offer all the extracurriculars of a traditional school, e.g. football, but would have a rigorous academic curriculum, perhaps the International Baccalaureate program.

Perhaps this re-zoning process will generate more community support for these types of ideas. Enticing people to attend schools by offering unique and excellent learning opportunities is much preferable to re-zoning.

Indya Kincannon

CathyMcCaughan's picture

vote no

Enticing people to attend schools by offering unique and excellent learning opportunities is much preferable to re-zoning.

Vote No please. Lets do this right for ALL students.

trion23's picture

Many kids being zoned into failing schools

Something I haven't heard too much about (compared to other concerns with this plan) is how quite a few students are being zoned into schools that are failing NCLB (No Child Left Behind) standards.

By my count, 355 students were scheduled to be transferred into Central, Austin-East, and Fulton High schools under the un-revised rezoning proposal. I think Mr. Mullin's revisions from last Friday (including a proposal to not move students in Holston Hills to Austin-East) dropped that number by about 59 students - meaning about 296 students are still begin shuffled into schools that are NCLB "High Priority" high schools. I find this irresponsible and inconceivable (esp. moving more students into Austin-East BEFORE improving the quality of education there).

Parents PLEASE NOTE - if your child is moved into one of these "failing" high schools, under FEDERAL LAW, you can send your children to another high school that is not failing. ALSO, Knox County Schools must pay for transportation costs to the alternative school (something the writers of this rezoning plan surely must not have considered). (See this link for more details about School Choice under NCLB - Public School Choice)

School board members - please vote this flawed proposed plan down and take community concerns and comments into consideration. I know it's not possible to please everyone, but I believe a much more fair and equitable rezoning plan is possible.

Thanks,

Chris Atkins
trion231@yahoo.com

Pamela Treacy's picture

Special Schools

Inyda and Rocketsquirrel

Your remarks are interesting. So how does this zoning plan set the stage to make those things possible?

Should we have a long term plan and vision for our schools before we shake up the entire county with rezoning?

Why didn't this start before the first brick was laid n Hardin Valley?

Our brightest and best around the county need to be supported as well as all the children we don't want to leave behind. I don't see how this plan helps any of that.

While there are personal implications for me in this plan that center around community support in raising my children. I feel this should be a process that addresses more than just where our kids are going, but what they are going to.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

24 hours until vote

May 1, 2007

Dear Knox County School Board Members,

Just 24 hours before your vote on the school system’s Proposed Comprehensive High School Zone Plan, too many concerns about the plan remain unanswered.

Here in Powell, we have concerns for both the school system as a whole and for our own school community.

Concerns for the Knox County School System:

In its informational packet titled “Proposed Comprehensive High School Zone Plan,” school system personnel include a page titled “What Drives the Rezoning Proposals?” We question whether any of the seven drivers the school board established are supported in the resulting proposal, as follows:

• We question that Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) data projecting future high school enrollments following the proposed rezoning, while possibly unreliable, nevertheless indicate continued overcrowding at Farragut High (2400 students again eight years into plan) and projected underutilization at Karns High (67 to 81% utilization rates over first eight years of plan). The school board must “pin down” projected enrollments at Farragut and Karns high schools.

• We also question the plan's assertion that Central High and Powell High have “facility utilization challenges”, since 1) neither school is underutilized, 2) neither school overcrowded, and 3) MPC's Partnership for Education Facilities Assessment (PEFA) study projects future enrollments of 5% and 15% fewer students, respectively, at these two schools. The proposal's undue attention to “scheduling challenges” asserted to exist at Bearden High and West High, which we are told refers to a high volume of "floating teachers" in these schools, runs contrary to board members' previous assertions that the school system must move away from this costly concept that each high school teacher requires exclusive use of a classroom. The school board must utilize consistently the PEFA study data relating to underutilization and overcrowding, and it must also act consistently with regard to what attention, if any, it will give the so-called “floating teacher” issue.

• We also question that the plan creates a "viable population" at Hardin Valley High. On the contrary, those same MPC data projecting future high school enrollments following the proposed rezoning, while possibly unreliable, nevertheless indicate projected underutilization at Hardin Valley High (61 to 65% utilization rates over first eight years of plan). The school board must “pin down” projected enrollment at Hardin Valley high school, as well.

• We also question that the plan creates a "viable population" at Austin-East Magnet High, since the viability of any changed population at A-E must be determined within the context of how the school board intends to utilize A-E. The school board must wait to form its intentions for Austin-East high school until after it is in receipt of recommendations from the Magnet School Task Force.

• We also question whether the plan "sets the stage for middle school rezoning," with respect to its goal of establishing sound feeder patterns, because the school board has made no disclosure whatsoever of its intentions in this regard. The school board must fully disclose its intended changes in feeder patterns, so that all affected school communities may participate in and respond to that plan.

• We especially question that the plan "cleans up" transportation problems, since it clearly imposes longer and/or less safe commutes in virtually every school community affected by the plan. Neither have school system personnel determined the increased cost inherent in conducting the proposed bus transportation routes to be operated under the plan, per Mr. Mullins remarks at the recent Powell High community forum. The school board must answer these concerns of longer and/or less safe commutes and it must undertake an analysis of what would clearly be increased school system transportation costs.

• We also question that because "the most accessible available seats are in the northwest part of the county," any assumption should necessarily follow that system wide rezoning should be undertaken to fill those seats. Undertaking a circuitous rezoning pattern to shuffle students, first west-to-east across a 30 mile swath of south Knox County, then east-to-west just above that route, may or may not be advisable. The school board must avoid attempts to disguise that the west end of the school system is, for the present, overbuilt, and it must avoid potentially inviting subsequent rezoning in a west-to-east direction, should growth in west Knox County exceed MPC’s current projections.

Concerns for the Powell School Zone:

If adopted, the Proposed High School Zone Plan would impact the existing Powell High school zone, as follows:

• On the eastern and especially the western ends of the zone, remove about 1/3 of the existing geographic area, containing 249 existing students, or 22% of existing enrollment.

• On the southern end of the zone, add a finger four or five miles into the central city, to the I-640/I-75 interchange, containing 321 new students, or 28% of existing enrollment.

It is our understanding that this alteration to the Powell High school zone is proposed in part to facilitate correcting an existing feeder pattern that routes students from Norwood Elementary, to Northwest Middle, and on into too many high schools. Correction of the feeder pattern would entail routing existing Norwood Elementary and Northwest Middle students into Powell schools following subsequent elementary and middle school rezoning measures the school board will undertake next fall.

Powell residents, then, require the following assurances that several indicators of student success at a changed Powell Middle and Powell Elementary might compare equally to or more favorably than Knox County school system averages for the same indicators, as follows:

A review of middle school statistics at the State Report Card for 2006 reveals:

• Economically Disadvantaged students at Northwest Middle run 71.7%.

• Economically Disadvantaged students at Powell Middle run 29.6%.

• The school board must assure that the percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students at Powell Middle following the proposed rezoning will compare equally to or more favorably than the Knox County school system average of 39.8% Economically Disadvantaged.

• Suspended and expelled students at Northwest Middle comprise 45% and 2.1%, respectively, of total students.

• Suspended and expelled students at Powell Middle comprise 16.8% and 0%, respectively, of total students.

• The school board must assure that the percentage of suspended and expelled students at Powell Middle following the proposed rezoning will compare equally to or more favorably than the Knox County school system average of 11.4% and .1% suspended and expelled students, respectively.

• TCAP test scores (Academic Achievement) in four tested subjects at Northwest Middle rate D, D, D and F.

• TCAP test scores (Academic Achievement) in four tested subjects at Powell Middle rate A, A, C, and C.

• The school board must assure that TCAP test scores measuring Academic Achievement at Powell Middle following the proposed rezoning will compare equally to or more favorably than the Knox County school system average of A, B, B, and C.

Similarly, a review of elementary school statistics at the State Report Card for 2006 reveals:

• Economically Disadvantaged students at Norwood Elementary run 74.6%.

• Economically Disadvantaged students at Powell Elementary run 35.0%.

• The school board must assure that the percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students at Powell Elementary following the proposed rezoning will compare equally to or more favorably than the Knox County school system average of 39.8% Economically Disadvantaged.

• Suspended and expelled students at Norwood Elementary comprise 9.1% and 0%, respectively, of total students.

• Suspended and expelled students at Powell Elementary comprise 1.0% and 0%, respectively, of total students.

• The school board must assure that the percentage of suspended and expelled students at Powell Elementary following the proposed rezoning will compare equally to or more favorably than the Knox County school system average of 11.4% and .1% suspended and expelled students, respectively.

• TCAP test scores (Academic Achievement) in four tested subjects at Norwood Elementary rate D, D, D and D.

• TCAP test scores (Academic Achievement) in four tested subjects at Powell Elementary rate A, B, C, and C.

• The school board must assure that TCAP test scores measuring Academic Achievement at Powell Elementary following the proposed rezoning will compare equally to or more favorably than the Knox County school system average of A, B, B, and C.

These many unanswered concerns relating to both the Proposed Comprehensive High School Zone Plan and the process that created it necessitate that you vote “no” on the plan tomorrow, that you promptly assemble a more inclusive, participatory task force to begin work on a new plan, and that you create a plan attentive to ALL Knox County students.

Sincerely,
Tamara G. Shepherd

edens's picture

“developing theme-based

“developing theme-based high schools and academies within schools, with open enrollment across the school system.”

Actually, as the article states, I was quoting this:

(link...)

Which isn't a ringing endorsement of the whole initiative, just an acknowledgment that theme-based high schools and open enrollment seemed like one of its more promising and least controversial ideas.

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