Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Official Recap of the Karns Community Forum Last Night

Thanks to Deborah for sharing her notes. This will serve as the official Brian's Blog Recap of the Karns Community Forum on the Comprehensive High School Rezoning. This previous post went up this morning and both will be linked together.

The meeting started at 6:35 and was attended by KCS Asst Superintendent Bob Thomas, 3rd District School Board Representative Cindy Buttry, Director of High School Curriculum Ed Hedgepeth, Supervisor of Transportation and Zoning Dr. Rick Grubb, future HVHS Principal Sallee Reynolds, and a few other KCS personnel. About 55 citizens attended.

Ms. Buttry went straight to questions, as most people were well aware of the proposal by this point. There were a number of questions concerning curriculum and extracurricular activities at the new HVHS, including athletics, band, and vocational education. Ms. Reynolds spoke of the excellent facilities (fully equipped band room, theater, football and baseball fields, 9-lane track, etc.) and gave her vision for the new school. She will start developing programs this summer once her tenure at West HS is over. She is already getting inquiries from teachers interested in teaching at HVHS. More than likely, in this particular situation she will not have to wait until the usual April time period for teachers to request transfers, due to the big domino effect it will cause throughout the county. She wants to have the future HVHS students bond as soon as possible, and will be holding community events to get the students and their parents involved.
There were other concerns regarding grandfathering (which grade levels and whether or not siblings will be grandfathered). Ms. Buttry indicated that originally she had been against grandfathering siblings, because where do you draw the line? After listening to concerns, she is modifying her views and may be in favor of some form of grandfathering siblings.

Dr. Grubb addressed several questions about why so many students were coming out of Karns compared to other schools. He pointed out that the new school was built in the current Karns district, so one would expect a large number from Karns. He noted that, especially in the case of Farragut, they want to leave options open. If Hardin Valley grows faster than MPC projections, than future growth in Farragut could be accommodated by zoning the eastern part of the FHS zone to Bearden rather than Hardin Valley. They don’t want to move students out right now and then have to move them back – they can wait to see where the growth is fastest. He emphasized that this is not a fun process for the administration either, but choices have to be made. He addressed transportation concerns by pointing out that many students travel 16 miles one way to Carter HS, up to one hour and 20 minutes on a bus, so it is hard to have sympathy with people complaining about commutes that are increasing from 4 miles to 6 ½ miles.

The tone of the night was more positive than it has been at other community meetings, with a couple of exceptions. One parent pointed out an area that is being zoned from West HS to Karns. She expressed concern that those students would destroy the integrity of the Karns community and would change the character of the school, and commented that it almost looked like forced busing. Mr. Thomas acknowledged that the area in question might include students of a different socioeconomic group, but that every child deserved the opportunity for the best education possible. He said that maybe welcoming them with open arms was expecting too much, and was sorry she felt that way. Ms. Buttry followed up by stating that she understood what the Karns community was feeling, but that they were talking about her community – she lives in the area that is being rezoned from West to Karns. She stated that she certainly hoped they would welcome her child with open arms, just as they had welcomed her as their school board representative. She stated that she did not support what has happened to Karns and plans to vote against the plan. She encouraged the crowd to keep their questions focused on issues rather than making it about other communities.

Another parent pointed out that there has not been a buy-in by the community, and gave examples of other school districts that had gone through recent rezoning and included the community in the process. She stated that there were a lot of things not even brought to the table here, such as open zoning and fixing the magnet school problem. She encouraged the school board and administration to stop the process and start over with community participation. She invited everyone to a county-wide forum at the Knoxville Expo Center on Thursday, April 26.

However, another parent later pointed out that the longer it takes to decide on the zones, the harder it will be on the children as they won’t know which school they’ll be going to. Let the school board make a decision – we can’t keep delaying.

The forum ended at 8:05, with Ms. Buttry saying that we had set a record for the shortest forum to date!

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