Apr 14 2007
07:43 pm

Some posters here appear to think that this school rezoning proposal under consideration is routine. It isn't. A systemwide school rezoning proposal of the sort under consideration now has NEVER BEFORE been suggested by Knox County Schools.

Several school communities slated for rezoning, including my own, have no overcrowding or underutilization problems either one, but are nevertheless included in the community-wrecking shuffle.


See: (link...)

Read more after the jump...

Interim Superintendent Mullins on KCS website, April 10:
"Any rezoning action may be painful to those students who are concerned," said Mullins. "Unfortunately, we do have to rezone from time to time to alleviate school crowding and to make better use of our facilities. Overtime our population and our facilities can become unbalanced, and we have never had a comprehensive rezoning in Knox County to address this issue."

But my community's high school is *not* overcrowded, Mr. Mullins, and the only reason adjacent Karns High, where you want to send us, is underutilized is because your boneheaded school board caved in to some noisy Karns High parents who demanded a brick-and-mortar solution to their temporary overcrowding problem three years back.

In November, 2004, at a time Karns High relied on NOT ONE PORTABLE BUILDING and had HVHS funding secured to build a new high school by 2008, the board voted to build a Karns High addition to appease parents. A Karns High project was not on the KCS Five-Year Capital Plan, even in the "Project Costs Beyond Five-Year Plan" column, but suddenly appeared at the head of the list.

I was at that November public forum, telling the board that overcrowding at Karns High was a temporary problem that should be remedied by a temporary measure, namely portable classrooms. I told them that, after HVHS opened, they would be left with a big, half-empty building.

They built it anyway. Now they're preparing to empty Karns High and "make better use of" that big, half-empty building I told them they didn't need. They're destroying my community to do it, just yanking our Powell school population westward.

They call it efficiency, I call it CYA. What about you? Do you have comparable "if we build it, they will come" stories to share? Has school rezoning been "invited" in your community?

knoxnative's picture

Communities Victims of CYA


I think you hit the nail on the head - the problem really is CYA. The idea for HVHS was created in too much haste and without really thinking it through. The only way they know how to fix the problem is to shift students around through these massive rezonings.

The communities that are being broken up by this rezoning need to work with each other if they want to have a chance of stopping the current plan - it's on the fast track to adoption, and it will take a huge uproar to derail it now.

If the train can be slowed, a more logical plan and possibly even alternative ideas could be considered if time can be bought to flesh them out and work out the politics.

Now that we're here with a $50 million plus school in the wrong place, a possible solution to the problem would be to make HVHS a model school with special classes and amenities and let anyone county-wide choose to go there as long as they provided their own transportation. If it's a good enough school, parents would voluntarily "self-zone" their kids there. The "bad" schools would eventually have a smaller population, leading to fewer students per teacher and allowing more intensive instruction for those needing it most. We could end up with a model school system, kids get better education, TPTB get the credit, everybody wins.

But you need a big turn out and some good county-wide organization - if it comes down to one community against the other, we'll all lose.

Rachel's picture

make HVHS a model school

make HVHS a model school with special classes and amenities and let anyone county-wide choose to go there as long as they provided their own transportation

Yup, nothing like a world-class school that east and south Knoxvillians can send their kids to if they have the time etc. to drive all the way to Hardin Valley twice a day.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Use A-E differently?

I hear you, Rachel. But the other pitch we're being given for systemwide rezoning, beyond the need to draw the HVHS zone line, is that A-E is "underutilized," thus the "round robin" rezoning pattern.

What is the potential to go back to the drawing board WRT how that campus is utilized? Could another application for A-E, similar to any "model application" for HVHS, make for accessibility by east and south ends?

If that discussion has been raised previously, I'm not aware of it.

Rachel's picture

Tamara, That sounds like a


That sounds like a proposal worth exploring. There are undoubtedly others. I'm certainly not advocating for the proposed rezoning plan. I haven't studied it carefully, to tell you the truth.

I just wish that everyone were as interested as you are in finding ways to deliver quality education to ALL Knox County students.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Stepping stone

My interest isn't just in delivering quality education, Rachel. I'm also interested in halting the westward migration, generally. Consider this:

knoxnative: "Now that we're here with a $50 million plus school in the wrong place..."

...and that unnecessary addition at Karns High just provided a stepping stone deeper into west Knox County.

Rachel's picture

My interest isn't just in

My interest isn't just in delivering quality education, Rachel. I'm also interested in halting the westward migration, generally.

The two aren't unrelated, as I'm sure you're aware.

lotta's picture

I support any efforts to provide quality education but

I think it's a mistake to have school children on TV crying because they might have to change friends and school colors. I know this opinion isn't going to make me a favorite but I get very turned off by that kind of message. Change is part of life and let's face it, someday you have to get "uncomfortable" and go to new places and meet new people. It is not the end of the world and I wouldn't want to send my children the message that life is all about making sure no one is uncomfortable.

djuggler's picture

Lotta, "change is part of

Lotta, "change is part of life" when it makes sense. The proposed change does not make sense.

lotta's picture

I respectfully submit to you

that change doesn't always make sense - it just happens and you have to deal with it. Maybe this is not being done for the right reasons - my point is that using the argument that change will make my children uncomfortable is NOT a sound basis from which to make the decision re:school zoning.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

If it were just about school

If it were just about school colors, Lotta, I'd have to agree with you. But in a true community, people have a sense of ownership about their schools, and for very good reason. Here in Powell, we have a great deal of equity, both financial and sweat, in our schools.

We have raised $150,000 to create a playground at Powell Elementary, spent another $100,000 on maintenance and addtional equipment over the last ten years, and lost countless Saturdays to pushing wheelbarrows, pulling weeds, and raking mulch there. In the three years my husband spent as Playground Chair, the task was a family affair involving all four of us. The county has spent not one dime nor one hour on this task--it's ours.

At the high school, we privately raised $950,000 to the county's $50,000 match to build our All Sports Complex over the course of several years. It is the site used for Powell's Junior Pro Basketball League (and the League's commissioner, elected last month, is also someone now being told he lives in Karns, not Powell), serving over 1000 Powell children.

In a related oddity, we are also being told that the Powell-Levi Baseball Field, a community gathering place for many years, now lies in Karns. My Girl Scout troops and Cub Scout dens both have maintained it for forever.

Over the last ten years, my family has pumped literally thousands of books in school and classroom libraries at all three schools (as some here have seen me collecting by the buggy-load at the Friends of the Public Library's annual book sale).

In my family, we have painted school bathrooms, planted and maintained shrubery, directed traffic, mopped cafeteria kitchens, and on and on for over a decade--and we've performed those tasks with our neighbors who share our sense of ownership about our schools.

I can immediately think of three families living west of Clinton Highway, where we are slated for rezoning for Karns, who have the same multi-generational service relationship with our schools:

--Four generations of the Harbin family include Hack (who built half the homes in Powell), Jim (who continued the tradition and also served as a County Commissioner from Powell), Rick (past prez of the Homebuilders Association), and Rick's daughter, my son's age.
--Three generations of the Hinton family include Mary Jane (secretary at PES and power-behind-the-throne for 40 years, son Mike (former teacher and principal at two Powell schools),Jeannie (teacher at PMS for over 30 years), and Jeannie's son (a high-acheiving teen whose example as a deaf PHS football team member inspires us all).
--Three generations of the Hodge family include Leolah (past principal at PHS), Bob (of the N-S sports section and perennial school volunteer, especially on the playground with my husband), and Bob's son.

My point is that even as the subdivisions encroach, a large core of us in Powell have been here for eons. Rick Grubb is now telling us that Clinton Highway is the western boundary for our community, and would boot generations of residents who know otherwise.

And meanwhile, the DAR marker at Clinton Highway and Emory Road contradicts him: It says that 200 years before Rick Grubb's arrival, Fort Meneffe, which served as our first school, stood there, squarely marking the heart, not the boundary, of our Powell community.

I must add this anecdotal evidence of our sense of community here in Powell: Seven years ago, when I moved from one Powell location to our newly-built home on family property in Powell, my doorbell rang just 24 hours after my arrival. On the front steps stood Mary Jane Hinton, whom I reference above, holding blueberry nut loaf in tin foil. Surprised, I asked her how she knew I was living at this house now. She said my mother's neighbor's "beauty operator" told her. I'm tellin' ya, what we have here is rare.

lotta's picture

Please, I am unarmed. Put the pitch forks down.

I understand - really I do. No, I'm not asking anyone to offer children up as a sacrifice for the good of all mankind.

I know it's about history, community, property values, quality of life, etc. THAT is what you want to talk about - not weeping children scarred for life by going to a new school.

Believe me, I understand how rare these close knit communities are - mine is being destroyed by greedy developers as we blog. I've invested everything I have in my community - fought like hell to protect it and went through the MPC gaming course. You think I'm not pissed????

I withdraw my comments re:the sappy news stories. There really is no need for anyone to get their knickers in such a twist. Geez.....

CathyMcCaughan's picture

many, many reasons

Lotta - What reasons would you prefer? The large increases in travel time (and cost) for buses and cars? The additional crowding of Knoxville's morning commute traffic? The danger of teen drivers going farther to unfamiliar territory? Removing the option of walking to your school? Students losing membership in the activities they were counting on to help them get college scholarships? Reduced home values? How about losing re-election to the school board?

lotta's picture

My prefence?

Cathy said: Lotta - What reasons would you prefer?

I prefer sound reasoning - my comment refers to the emotional tone coming from the media.

R. Neal's picture

Reduced home values? That's

Reduced home values?

That's one interesting theme that appears to be largely missing in this discussion. I would think property values would be a huge concern, what with their home being most folk's biggest investment.

But two things about that. Most parents involved in the debate seem more concerned about their kids and their education than anything else, over and above property values.

Second, isn't it sad that Knox County has schools which negatively (and positively) affect property values? Shouldn't a family be able to buy a home in any neighborhood based on preferred lifestyle, convenience, cost, ameneties, etc. knowing that every school is indeed a great school and not having to worry about factoring that into the decision?

CathyMcCaughan's picture

where's Spock when you need him

Parents are being emotional about their children while non-parents say to tough it out for the good of the schools several years down the road? Do you really expect parents to happily offer up their children as sacrificial lambs in the hopes that this will make all the schools better eventually?

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Unity in the countywide war cry

Cathy: "Parents are being emotional about their children while non-parents say to tough it out for the good of the schools several years down the road?"

Cathy, if we are to unify the war cry being heard across Knox County on this issue, we must all get behind one message: That systemwide rezoning of schools has never before been proposed in KC, that it would destroy the social fabric of our entire county's communities, and that its proposal is not the consequence of population migration, but of abjectly poor planning on the part of local government.

The poor location chosen for HVHS is one example, overbuilding at Karns High is a second example, and throwing inordinate amounts of cash at A-E in the absence of a "promotional plan" for a magnet high school is a third example.

It simply is not the task of this week's schoolchildren to assist the school board and MPC in masking their years of mistakes, to put it as politely as my anger will allow.

Neither does acquiescing to this systemwide rezoning proposal offer any assurance whatsoever against the possiblity of a similar and subsequent systemwide rezoning proposal a few years down the road. Acquiescing now only establishes a precedent that we will "lay back and enjoy it" again next time.

CathyMcCaughan's picture

I'll be at the forums, too.

We're on the same team here Tamara.

djuggler's picture

"isn't it sad that Knox

"isn't it sad that Knox County has schools which negatively (and positively) affect property values?"

Absolutely! Truth be told, if you can buy 1/4 mile down the road and have a 5 minute drive on secondary roads to Bearden High School vs a 20 minute congested traffic snarl to West, you won't be buying my house regardless of the quality of the school.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Exporting community?

Every school community seems to have a small, but vocal, minority focused on maintaining property values and denying access to a certain school population, Randy. A few of my Powell neighbors have frustrated and embarrassed me on that score, in fact, as I'm sure has happened in every community countywide. I've been quite up front with these few Powell residents to offer my reminder that these are children we're talking about inviting into our community. Naysayers of this sort do not speak for the kind and welcoming majority of my community's residents.

It hasn't escaped my notice, though, that the rezoning plan for Powell High would ultimately route Northwest Middle and Norwood Elementary (around 75% Economically Disadvantaged, per State Rpt Card) into our community's schools. Given that the Powell demographic is already approaching the Knox County average for Economically Disadvantaged students (Powell Elementary is 35% ED, while the county average stands at 40% ED), it is not unkind to ask whether a proposed influx of children whose families struggle would cause our Powell schools to carry a *disproportionate* percentage of such students.

Every school community has a moral obligation to help support those children who, for whatever reason, are guiltless in their capacity as the offspring of struggling families. However, to the extent that family income level often impacts student performance, and that student performance drives perceptions of a community's schools, it is not unreasonable to rely on that countywide measure of *average* percent of ED students, 40% in Knox County, in making any determination of whether one's school community has been asked to offer more than its *fair share* of community support. Our school board members have an obligation to answer every community's questions in this regard, sensitive topic or no, if the burden of carrying the county's struggling children is to be equally shared.

I sincerely hope that stirring the socio-economic pot among the county's school children has not been a secondary objective in this proposed systemwide rezoning plan. While I beleive, like you, that the pot should be stirred, redefining the longstanding historic boundaries of communities, and ripping residents' multi-generational friendships asunder, is not the correct device for this pot-stirring.

As I've opined several times before in these rezoning threads, integration of socio-economic and racial groups is best acheived through increasing the availability of mixed-income housing in a given area. Just as it is not possible to "export democracy," it is not possible to "export community," either. Both these institutions sprout from within an area's existing borders and attempts to change those borders do not automatically result in any newly-defined "communities."

bwallace's picture

Exporting Community...I think so

I think you got this one exactly right, looking at the rezoning proposal it looks like "stirring the pot" is definetly a secondary objective. As a parent in the East Beavercreek community being rezoned to Central, I think they are moving our community into Central to avoid the numbers problem you have alluded to in your previous post. I don't have any data to support this opinion but looking at the subdivisions included in the East Beavercreek area slated for rezoning one would think that ED% in this area would be fairly low. I enjoy the current Powell community and hope this rezoning effort can be stopped. Thanks for all you are doing to help.

AML's picture

That systemwide rezoning of

That systemwide rezoning of schools has never before been proposed in KC, that it would destroy the social fabric of our entire county's communities, and that its proposal is not the consequence of population migration, but of abjectly poor planning on the part of local government.

Amen to that.

Also, and i may be wrong on this, was the rezoning that was referred to in the newspaper recently about Farragut to Bearden, Bearden to West in the 1990s - it was referenced to, in my way of reading, as a big deal that was much ado about nothing and folks got over it - my memory of that is that rezoning happened after and because of the consolition of the knoxville city and knox county school systems and actually zoned students into the community schools they were supposed to be in - in other words, children who once lived less than a mile west of Bearden High were Farragut students because they lived in the county. That zoning, again as I recall it and someone please correct me if I am incorrect, had the effect of moving students into the schools where their communities were as opposed to going to schools based on county or city residence.
This current rezoning proposal appears to move students, across the county, OUT of their communities. Perhaps this is not a bad time to think seriously about the idea that some Farragut parents have been proposing - change Farragut Middle into the adjunct high school and make the HVHS building a middle school? Just thinking out loud.

Pamela Treacy's picture

So what do we agree on?

Communities are important. Each is not well defined politically. Our political districts for city, county and school board should better reflect the communities. We need to make sure that we as a county understand where the community lines are so we can support each other.

Media is focusing on personal emotional issues and not the facts as to why the rezone proposal doesn't make sense.

Education should be good (I prefer to say excellent, but can't yet) all throughout the county so people don't feel there are bad schools and good schools.

Government should not rush into large financial decisions like additions and build new schools (especially in the wrong location)until they have all the facts.

So where does this leave us?

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Emperors have no clothes

PT: "So where does this leave us?"

I'll be demanding that I be "left" in the school community where my children are the third generation of participants, and where my home lies on dirt defined as "Powell" by four prior generations of my family.

The Knox County School Board and the MPC, on the other hand, I beleive are "left" on stage naked, while we point and gawk that these emperors have no clothes.

Pamela Treacy's picture

Next Steps


You are going to make me cry again like the other night on the phone.

Maybe more people will understand that this zoning is not just about putting bodies in buildings but it touches the core of our personal lives. People need a sense of community.

I hope all our letters and emails get the attention of all political leaders in the county. Do you think we should propose a "roll up your sleeves" public workshop instead of "listening" session?

This would be like the forums held for redevelopment projects like the south waterfront and the cumberland avenue strip.

Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.


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