Education Editorial Page
The Tale of Two Cities Will Continue Unless ….
We Demand Equity for South Fulton
Updated March 2004
UNDER FUNDING OF
the Board passed a budget of 34 million to build Westlake (building only).
At least 39 million is needed. Alpharetta High is being built at $110.00
per sq. ft. Westlake is proposed at 90.00 per sq. ft.
IN SOUTH COUNTY DEMANDS MORE SCHOOLS.
of the SPLOST II North County Schools have been built, while only 20 % of
South County Schools have been built. Money is short. SUPPORT Board
Members Bryant and Bowie’s demand for a funding mechanism to build the
needed South County Schools. The Board needs to use the Reserves as they
did three years ago to build Northview High in North Fulton.
STANDARDS FOR ALL
All the North County SPLOST Schools have
been built with the highest of standards under the guidance of Fulton Board
of Education Capital Programs. Board Members Reeves, Dean and Houseman now
want to abolish Capital Programs to economize on the remainder of schools
built in South County. Schools in North County are BEING BUILT at
110.00 sq. ft. while the new plan
FOR SOUTH COUNTY builds at around 83.00
sq. ft. This kind of economizing to build even more North County
Schools is being done on the “Backs of South County Students”. We cannot
LET Board Members Reeves, Dean and Houseman give us poor quality schools.
Our only guarantee of keeping quality is to ensure the Capital Programs
remains in operation.
FOR REMAINING SCHOOLS.
Building schools is time sensitive. Architects must be hired and land
purchased. Demand that South County High School, Westlake, South County
Middle and Elementary Schools building process be on schedule. (land and
architects). Not doing so can delay the opening of these schools by a
year. Delaying South County Schools allows Board Members Dean, Reeves and
Houseman to have more money to do as they please.
IN OUR SCHOOLS.
School Communities require good leaders
with visions. Come out and support our Board members and demand the
leadership needed in our schools.
Board Votes for New Westlake High with Conditions
Pride, dignity, determination, perseverance
and beauty can only express what was demonstrated by the outpouring of
residents who trekked some fifty miles to North Fulton County to press for a new
Westlake. This issue has demonstrated that some people want a sense of
community and we came from different streets, subdivisions and areas of
Parents and residents provided examples of
the type of legacy they want to leave their children and Disraeli Smith, II, a
sophomore of Westlake from the Hunters Forest subdivision, demonstrated that
their are some young people ready to take the baton and continue our
struggle. His remarks focused on the inadequacies of the science labs and how Westlake students are unable to
explore and experiment in the sciences. He talked about the lack of heat,
overcrowding, poor curriculum and portable classrooms.
was joined by several parents and Commissioners Bill Edwards and Bob Pitts.
We owe a debt of thank to our Commissioners and school board members, Linda
Bryant and Zenda Bowie. Commissioner Edwards gave some stirring remarks and
indicated that it is time for the Board to stop ignoring South Fulton. For
the 100 or so of us, who were there we rose to give him a standing ovation.
Equally important was the leadership of Mrs. Bryant and Bowie. To insure
everyone is clear, although Ms. Bowie abstained last night, it was because of
the unusual language that was added to the motion. Her concerns are valid
despite the school board's legal counsel clarification on the motion. We
cannot allow anyone to reinterpret what we all know to be factual, and both of
our board members will need our prayers, love and support ahead.
Although the Board voted 6-0 for the
rebuilding, there was unusual language attached to the motion that does not
seem to be the usual manner in which a school is approved for construction.
What we understand at this point is that the Construction group can proceed
with developing the plans. There are several issues that remain unclear:
The Board's financial commitment?
How will the funding of the school issue be
Why will it take three years for Westlake
to open, 2007 as opposed to September 2006 (two years is the normal
Can the building of the school be fast
When will the adjacent lands be acquired
for the building?
These issues are more the reason for why we
will have to monitor the school board's actions, to insure Westlake is not delayed into eternity or that
any other school preempts the building of Westlake.
We need for those of you who have been
involved to continue to come out and support us. We will update you regularly
and we ask that if there are other neighbors who want to insure they are
included in the communication, they can sign up on this website.
Click on the URL below and add your name to the email distribution list.
Thanks to all of you and remember that this
issue is now a vigil that will require all ears to be on alert for anything
that can jeopardize our progress. Last night and the pre-board meeting (on
4/13) indicated that there are three board members who have a different agenda
and are patient to wait our community out.
Background: A Tale of Two Cities
Board Meeting Outcome March 11, 2004
A standing room only crowd attended the
Fulton County School Board Meeting this evening. Cars were parked all along
the streets since the parking lots were running over. Elected officials
(Commissioner Pitts and Representative Roger Bruce) along with students from
throughout the Westlake Cluster were there. Parents of school age students
and parents of children as young as 2 months old were represented. The group
was supported by several neighbors who already had grown children but who
still were invested in having a quality neighborhood school. It was a
diverse sight that we can all feel proud of and one day these same students
will feel very proud that they were apart of a fight for a quality school.
the public comments phase of the meeting, our Westlake students and neighbors
made convincing pleas that the Westlake facility was no longer adequate and a
fifth- 30 million dollar patch job would be a waste of taxpayer monies.
Speakers confronted Board Members with their insensitivities and lack of
commitment to South County students. Parents insisted that we wanted the
same for our children as parents in other parts of the County. Concerns were
raised that the SPLOST dollars are coming in slowly suggesting that this Board
might leave South County without funding to build the schools we have been
promised. Interestingly, North County parents were there too. These parents
were upset at a Board bent on serving a limited number of students in
their communities as well.
Member Bryant and Bowie did not call for the Westlake approval vote. Both
knew they had only one assured vote-Julia Bernath. A fourth vote was needed.
To have called for the vote and loss would have meant that neither of the
three (Bernath, Bowie and Bryant) could ask for the vote for Westlake again
during this school board year. Thus, the vote was set up as an action item
for the April Board meeting.
here what we believe is happening:
Construction Committee (appointed by the Board) has agreed that the
renovations identified by Gardner Smith Architects for Westlake are
appropriate. The Fulton Capital Programs staff must now cost out the building
renovations. As we understand it, if the Westlake renovations costs are high
enough, then the Board of Education must decide whether to rebuild or
renovate. We have heard the architects say that even with the renovations,
there are some structural and technical inadequacies at Westlake that cannot
Westlake vote will be held in North County in April; however, we will still
have an opportunity to be heard at the Pre-Board meeting (Cleveland Avenue).
Our committee must meet to strategize; in the meantime, we are still pursuing
a contact with the NAACP Legal Defense fund. Since the Board's history is
insensitivity, we must be prepared to take alternative legal actions.
tonight was a great night for the Westlake Community. It was heartening to
see so many parents and students out. We have one more month to lobby the
Board for their support. Please inundate them with emails. We are on our way
to having good schools at every level for our children. Only a show of
strength will let them know our commitment and resolve.
will keep you updated.