Friday, April 20, 2007

Recap of the Community Forum Held at the Bearden Last Night

UPDATE: Check the comments below and take the link. You will find some pictures from teh Bearden meeting. Thanks to Cathy and Doug for sharing your photo's.

First of all I will use abbreviations for the school names. The abbreviations and proper names are at the end of the post.

Several members of Knoxville's Media were present: Reporter Jeff Lenox and Photographer of WATE Reporter Whitney Daniels and Photographer of WVLT Volunteer TV. A Photographer for WBIR. Knoxville News-Sentinel Reporter Matt Lakin and E.W. Scripps reporter Larry Van Gilder for the publication managed by the tabloid girls. County Commissioner Lee Tramel was present. Former County Commissioner Phil Guthe was present. Announced Fourth District Seat A County Commission candidates Ruthie Kuhlman and Walter Wojnar were also present.

The headcount at the beginning of the meeting was 170 , it swelled to at least 225. Superintendent Roy Mullins began the meeting explaining that it was neccesary to move zone lines where the students are. If approved it will be implemented in teh school year 2008-2009. If approved it will impact today’s 7th graders. All others will be grandfathered. They will be rising Freshmen in 2008-2009. Students rezoned to HVHS will not be grandfathered.

At this point the public forum began.

A resident of Kensington subdivision asked if this had been planned previous to its release. BHS will be getting more students than we are giving away. RM said that it will take place in 08/09, it is never perfect in planning growth. It is neccesary to keep student bodies viabile.

Another resident said it is such a straight shot to BHS. You are putting us across a lot of roads that are unsafe. Roads with more teenage drivers that are less experienced. You have one high school Austin East that is not viable. No one wants to live in the A-E zone, it is a dangerous area. All we have is our communities to keep us safe. You are putting our kids in dangerous situations.

Another citizen said that his home is 1.1 miles from this (BHS) school, I will be traveling 8 miles to take my child to WHS. I find it hard to believe that we will be buying coupon book sales, and selling popcorn, etc to support a school not in our district. 1500 families in the Bearden area are being moved for 106 students. Don’t disrupt the lives of our families. Did school board members have any input into this plan? RM Yes. The citizen said I was never contacted. Dr.Murphy then said. As a school board member, I do not sit down and say this is where I want the line. There is a separation between governing and the school administration. RM then explained that MPC looks at demographic, population etc. the citizen then challenged saying that he believed that property values will go down. This all started because of a library, Mr. Ragsdale proposed a wheel tax and sold it on a new high school and now all of us are having to pay for it. Have you considered the cost of increased fuel and pollution?

A parent shouted out we buy because of the school not because of neighborhood.

A citizen resident from Westhampton S/D stated that the people that reside this close to the school belong in this school.

A citizen resident of Kensington referred to comments made by School Board Vice Chair Cindy Buttry at teh workshop on Wednesday night. When she satted that I have gotten rezoned. Is this a done deal? RM said it is never a done deal until the Board votes. It is a proposal. The citizen said that 60% of BHS's population will be different, For the growth in this area we are affecting the whole county. Leave the FHS – BHS to BHS and move more of FHS to HVHS, they (Farragut citizens) wouldn’t mind anyway because it is a new school. RM – FHS will continue to grow. We will have to rezone FHS out again.

A parent that currently has a student at BHS said we bought a house in this community 7 years ago, we moved out of FHS because the school is not diverse, BHS has the diversity. the fact that diversity was/is not a part of your consideration bothers me. Consider diversity (Cultural) I can not buy a house with out considering the diversity of a school. It is deplorable that you have a school in Knox County(Halls) with out cultural diversity.

A citizen said that schools are a part of the community. You are splitting up communities. In your opening remarks you referenced your own elementary school, Corryton. It is more important than that. You are not taking our concerns seriously and you are patronizing us.

A citizen said this school was built for this community. They asked for a clarification of the PRZ zone. RM said that the PRZ was created in response to OCR complaints with merger of city/county schools. The citizen reminded the Superintendent that a concern was raised about the splitting of neighborhoods was a concern @ Holston Hills at the board workshop. There is a community of 4 subdivisions that have been mistaken for 1 subdivision. Kingston Hills has 101 residences and 51 reside within the PRZ zone. West Oaks has 105 residences 59 are within the PRZ zone. Kingston Park on Dun Kirk Rd. 101 residencies 52 are within the PRZ zone lines. She suggested that the MPC go back and look at its figures, in particular Francis Station Rd. WHS to BHS. It would be more efficient to transport to BHS. She said that I have two sons 4th and 6th graders. Rocky Hill is my community, my family and friends go all the way to Kensington, you are taking our communities away from us. She referred to the November School Board meeting notes Russ Oaks at that time discussed open school zones, FHS, BHS, KHS and PHS. "As a matter of fact the projections for BHS are to decrease." Russ Oaks responded that if you look at the bar graph in the packet you have it still shows BHS with decline, they received the PEFA study and the board said let’s look at the whole community. The reason it changed is we are looking at the whole county. The citizen said the growth is west of BHS, Why are you disrupting the whole county?

A citizen father said this is a Great turnout, I will see you in 10 years and we can have this conversation again, due to the fact that he has smaller children. Why not put the oneous on the developers The numbers we are shifting 200 some students from west end to FHS. The main issue is safe driving. My teenagers can drive 5 minutes on secondary roads to reach BHS. I drove it without traffic to WHS and it took 15 minute to drive. You are putting my children in dangerous conditions. The plan doesn’t make sense. Choose your zones with a 5 mile radius and when they overlap, implement open enrollment. How many plans did you consider? RM siad this is the only recommendation. I don’t know if we made 5 or 50 adjustments.The parent asked Have you considered all options? Building smaller schools?

A resident of Kingston Hills / Kingston Woods said our community is not leveling off. Where is MS. Carson? The people who are supposed to be supporting us are not. Russ Oaks explained that she was attending the Cedar Bluff forum. The resident said you built a school where there are no people, my kids will have to change their school colors. I am an Admiral, my kids are Bulldogs that is hard. Unless you are going to tell us our kids are safe, I am not happy with it. You are answering our questions but are not listening to us. These are not lines it is patch work.

A Knox County citizen and BHS graduate in 1971. we do have a community that is involved here. I have no children. However, we are canvassing our neighborhoods, people are saying why are they doing this to us? One family said that they moved from So. Knox to live in this neighborhood for BHS. The people who would buy my house won’t buy it now. I am sitting on a house that I can not sell and if I can, I will not get what I need for it. The citizen said that Farragut is avoiding city taxes. Within a previous schools capital budget was money to purchase property for a high school. The School Board considered property on George Williams Road. We could have had a school on Geo. Williams Rd/ near A.L. Lotts but today it has 300-400,000.00 homes on it. Roy Mullins said that the folks that can do anything with developers is County Commission. The citizen said that they are in a subdivision with 460 homes within 4 subdivisions that were voluntarily annexed into the city a few years ago. RM endorsed impact fees but that is County Commission call. Let the Mayor and Commission know if you support impact fees.

A citizen asked about the final plan. The public needs to see the plan. What is the plan to be evaluated. Final compliation of the plan. RM - This is as definitive as we have now. The citizen referred to Page 5 the original motive is to relieve overcrowding at FHS. Only 264 students are being rezoned from FHS to HVHS (standing ovation) How do you reconcile that? RM - We are relieving FHS by 640 total students. The citizen said why are only 18% of FHS students being rezoned to HVHS. RM said if the school board had purchased the property on Geo. Williams we wouldn’t be here today.The citizen said that they had engaged a Phd in computer science and the results are that with 1105 students per one way trip is 3,000 miles a round trip is 6,000 miles. Let’s assume half are high school drivers and what are the safety. Have you considered that? RM said that we are always concerned, we provide bus transportation. Students driving is parents call. The citizen concluded with the statement that my neighborhood is not anti West, we are pro Bearden.

A Kensington resident asked have you considered if all students were to ride the bus? RM – I have asked that they look at the re-routing of the buses. RM – If you want staggered times, we can implement that. The parent said if you implement staggered times, you have to look at utilities cost as well. The citizen indicated that the Gettysvue development produces $12 - $14 million a year in tax revenue when the farm previously located on the property generated about a $1,000. a year. Where are our tax dollars going? Knox County budget is a half a billion dollars, we must be good stewards of the revenue. He indictaed that his family moved so they could be in Rocky Hill, WVMS and BHS zones.

A resident of Westmoreland Ct. said that he has a student in high school and middle school. His question was to Dr. Murphy will you be willing to support grandfathering of families like me. My children are separated by 2 years. Dr. Murphy said Traditionally grandfathering was excluded, where it gets complicated is where kids are spread out in age and there is a divorce and re-marriage it becomes complicated like a rubic’s cube. On the school board there is discussion about grandfathering. One board member said grandfather back to the sixth grade, well what about 5th graders. I don’t have an answer to your question.

A resident asked about Grandfathering. Has there been any consideration for more parking for those grandfathered who are driving. RO said parking is a problem at about half of the high schools. FHS, WHS not a problem at KHS and HVHS. Parking at WHS is a paid permit and is for Seniors. Only 30 -40 juniors have paid parking permits due to hardships. BHS – juniors and seniors are eligible to purchase parking spaces and the lots are Full. 2) Staffing with a child taht has medical needs, there is not a nurse in every school. RM said I would like to have a nurse in every school, we do not have the funds. Aleece Stewart is in charge of staffing nurses for KNox County Schools.

A resident of Kingston Hills asked the new WHS Principal how many teachers are leaving WHS? The Principal said NONE. The parent said that he had talked to three teachers at WHS who plan to apply for jobs at HVHS. The Principal said every year WHS replaces 7-9 teachers since he has been there. RO said the staffing process for HVHS – a minimum # of teachers for each student. For example 700 students equal 40 teachers plus administrators. Dr. Murphy was asked about how many contacts had he received in support or opposition to this plan. In emails about 100 a day, 12 phone calls a day. I do not hear from people who are in support of the plan or are not affected. People in Westmoreland and New Westmoreland love the plan.
Dr. Murphy was then challenged to represent his district and vote NO. Dr. Murphy said that he will not be bullied to a position and that his constituents number 54,000 citizens.

A resident asked Dr. Murphy why don’t you survey/poll everyone in your district to determine their position. Dr. Murphy said that he is not in a situation to take polls. RO was asked about wording in the proposal document. "set stage for middle school pattern" RO explained that in one situation KCS has 11 elementary feeding 1 Northwest middle that it feeds 5 high schools in another 11 elementary feeding Bearden Middle. In setting the stage it means to reduce # of schools they feed. The parent asked What does it mean when we see educationally sound? We do not want kids to get lost. The parent asked is this setting the stage for Rocky Hill, WVMS and BHS. What changes do you forsee? RO said we do not know. The parent asked, Why did you start with H.S. first? RO said When you plan, you plan from the back to the front. The H.S. is the terminal end. The parent asked about BHS to WHS multiple routes to WHS? Rising 6th graders would be grandfathered with the alternate proposal Dr. Murphy, will you support grandfathering 6th graders? Dr. Myrphy said that I proposed sibling being grandfathered @ Rocky Hill a few years ago and lost. I can not commit until I get my hands on the numbers, I will look into it.

A parent said I attended a meeting here 150 days ago thinking my neighborhood was impacted and found that I was not impacted. Now I come to a meeting to find out that I may be impacted . How do I impact a decision within 48 hours with the Supeintendent Reccomendation on April 30 and the vote on May 1. Dr. Murphy said that constructive emails will help impact the vote.

A parent suggested leaving the 87 students at WHS

A parent asked Who is PEFA? RO said Partnership for Educational Facilities Assessment, a group that Mayor Ragsdale put together. The parent asked Are they from Knox Co? Yes.

A parent talked about utilization being the key to a plan. Logistics is the foundation of every plan. You haven’t worked on the Logistics.

A parent asked what will the board’s voting process be? RM – there are 9 board members and a majority is 5 votes in favor. The parent then suggested sending the group west of Pellissippi to HVHS instead of BHS. For the record: the BHS rezoning to WHS is 8 miles. FHS to HVHS is 12 miles on a highway with 70 mph speed limit.

A resident of Kingston Woods suggested sending the West Hills area on Middlebrook Pike to HVHS. It is a straight shot down Middlebrook. The resident asked when they would work on Elementary and Middle School zone lines. RM in September 2007 we will begin looking at numbers of the elementary/middle schools The resident said Bearden is taking the brunt of the hit – you are totally shredding communities.

One of the final citizens to speak. If the board votes NO what will happen? RM the board votes No then they will direct the Superintendent and staff to go back and do something else with a rezoning plan. The parent said there are 23 Rocky Hill kids going to WVMS, can you do something to keep them out of isolation? Dr. Murphy – said he would ask the Superintendent to look into it.

HVHS = Hardin Valley High School
BHS = Bearden High School
RM = Superintendent Roy Mullins
A-E = Austin East
WHS = West High School
KHS = Karns High School
PHS = Powell High School
RO = Russ Oaks