Pre-K To Move To College Heights, Not Clairemont Elementary

Don Calder writes…

Well, folks, we’ve moved from start to finish in fairly short order. As many of you know by now, Dr Edwards announced her final decision last Friday in parallel letters to Clairemont and ECLC families. Trailer(s) will be added to the ECLC — not Clairemont — to accommodate the 60 pre-K kids who were displaced from DHS and Oakhurst.

This, of course, is comforting to some and disappointing to others. There were very strong arguments for and against additional kids and trailer(s) at Clairemont, and they had the potential to be divisive and damaging. I am not aware of matters degenerating into any sort of neighbor-vs-neighbor, Thunderdome sort of thing. Great, huh? It appeared everyone simply wanted CSD to make a fully-informed and timely decision, based on a fair and open review of all the options.

As I wrote in my last post, Dr Edwards deserves much credit and praise for reconsidering her initial decision. She single-handedly tamped down a lot of the community’s frustration by speaking openly, sincerely and candidly of factors under (re)consideration…Many weighty decisions are in the offing, including reconfiguring attendance zones when Glennwood is repurposed as a K-3 school, choosing and effecting plans to relieve K-3 overcrowding in the long-term, and forming an advisory committee to review if, when and how Westchester should be redeployed as a school.

Thanks again for your ongoing support of an open, respectful and constructive dialogue with CSD.

151 thoughts on “Pre-K To Move To College Heights, Not Clairemont Elementary”


  1. Now if only CSD was a bit more forthcoming and transparent as far as pre-k registration for their employees’ kids was concerned. The process this year, well, it just plain sucked on multiple levels. Fortunately we were able to get a spot at an excellent non-CSD pre k nearby and it’s a good thing too — can you imagine 180+ four-year-olds crammed into a single building?

  2. I’m glad my daughter is heading to Elem school next year. CH cannot handle 60 more kids. Clairemont has consistently been under-enrolled & while Winnona & Oakhurst are busting at the seems they are able to maintain their comfort. Must be nice.

    1. I am sorry, but your statements concerning enrollments do not bear out:

      CSD enrollments based on the “report cards” on the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement website (gaosa.org):

      2005-2006: 740 K-3 enrollments (252 CL, 220 OA, 268 WP)
      2006-2007: 768 K-3 enrollments (273 CL, 221 OA, 274 WP)
      2007-2008: 864 K-3 enrollments (319 CL, 243 OA, 302 WP)
      2008-2009: 937 K-3 enrollments (321 CL, 276 OA, 340 WP)

      Difference in enrollments between 2005 and 2009 and percent change:
      CL: 69 (127.3%)
      OA: 56 (125.5%)
      WP: 72 (126.9%)

      All of our currently operating K-3 schools are bursting at the seams. None are under-enrolled.

      1. I believe your percent changes are all off by 100. CL increased by 27.3%, OA by 25.5%, and WP by 26.9%. Figures over one hundred imply to me a more than doubling of enrollment which is just misleading.

        1. Robert you are right. My mistake. It was unintentional. I was stating 2009 enrollment as a percentage in terms of 2005. -Not the percentage change.

          Corrected:

          Difference in enrollments between 2005 and 2009 and percent change:
          CL: 69 (+27.3%)
          OA: 56 (+25.5%)
          WP: 72 (+26.9%)

  3. I really wish there were established avenues for bridging gaps in knowledge and perspective among the schools. Over time, maybe the SCLT and SLTs will help in this regard. I truly hope so.

    Our perception is our reality, of course, but I wonder whether F-on-the-Wall has observed the small dirt-patch that is Clairemont’s playground, or pull-out instruction that takes place in its corridors (among many other space-related challenges). I’ve never considered Clairemont spacious or under-utilized; however, I’m certain that comparable observations could be made of all CSD’s elementary schools. Please understand: my (our) entreaties to CSD were not meant to export Clairemont’s problems to another campus.

    1. I agree. These stereotypes of neighborhoods are so unhelpful. People are people, no matter what neighborhood you are in. I believe that far fewer inequalities exist between schools now (with respect to instruction and resources) , than in decades. Perhaps if we gave parents more homework in the components of IB or EL we ‘d get along better….wonder if any of the teachers could help us with that…

  4. I feel so fortunate to be part of the CDS but the fact that the Pre-K classes were forced to College Heights by some very noisy neighbors infuriates me. I think it is so interesting that Winnona and Oakhurst seem to make do but you Clairmont are so above it!! Please don’t redistrict me to Clairmont!!!!

    1. As one of the noisy “neighbors”, let me apologize for infuriating you. I’d be happy to apologize over a cup of coffee and walk the Clairemont and College Heights grounds with you. (garrett dot goebel at gmail dot com)

      However, don’t believe for a second that we forced Dr. Edwards’ hand on the decision. She is a smart lady, and she’s fully capable of balancing the factors and sticking to her guns. We did perhaps raise awareness of additional space at College Heights that may have been overlooked when the Central Office was initially looking at the College Heights site. And we no doubt raised awareness of green space and other organization/logistics issues at Clairemont that would be difficult to address.

      I do accept that I agree with Dr. Edwards’ decision. And I agree with you and Dr. Edwards’, that trailers and 180 PreK children at College Heights has to be a temporary workaround. The day can not come soon enough, we can provide enough brick and mortar capacity to serve 0-Prek and K-12 without trailers.

      1. While I’m a noisy neighbor in my own right :), MotherofTwo may have been referring specifically to those community members who signed Don’s recent letter.

  5. CSD is not required to provide pre-K to all applicants. At least that’s what they told us when we were going through it in past years. They said that they had room for x number of pre-K kids at College Heights, and if they had too many applicants they would do a lottery.

    Which was fine with us, because there were plenty of other Lottery funded pre-K options outside of the school system, at various daycare and church programs.

    Seems they’ve now decided they will take in all who apply, and this is having an impact.

    1. I have wondered about this, too. The budget crisis is causing CSD to look at drastic measures like teacher furlough and cuts to K-12 programs, yet they are spending money on trailers for PK classes that are not required .

      I understand that early education is beneficial in the long run but if the budget is truly as tight as we are lead to believe, then fewer PK slots should have been a serious consideration especially when there is insufficient existing classroom space to house them.

      1. To be fair, I think all or most of the costs of pre-K are funded by the state lottery, so it’s not so much a budget issue for us as a space issue.

        1. Does State lottery pay for the trailer rental cost ? I didn’t think so. I don’t think the State funds any transportation either. Is there any added bus cost for our PK classes?

      2. I’m not 100% sure of this, but I think the majority (if not all) of the pre-k funding comes from the lottery program, not the regular CSD budget. (Someone correct me if I am wrong.) I think the lottery program is cutting costs too, though, and many systems are losing their pre-k lottery funding. Despite all this, CSD managed to win a grant for new pre-k classrooms because of their exemplary program. I don’t think it would be prudent for them to turn the grant down, given the pre-k demand in the community.

        In my opinion, if finding space for the pre-k kids is going to be a long-term issue, then CSD should consider eliminating or reducing the daycare age 0-3 program at College Heights to make room for the pre-k classes. I know it is a great program, but from everything I’ve heard, it is open to non-Decatur families and is impossible to get in to. Somebody actually told me that if you weren’t on the waiting list before you got pregnant (i.e. had an older kid already at the school so a spot would be reserved for you), then don’t even waste your time looking into it unless you have a few years to wait. Maybe some of those classrooms should be used for pre-k instead.

        1. I believe the daycare program at College Heights actually brings in money–along with the YMCA.

          1. I am not sure if people in Decatur realize there are other lottery funded pre-k programs out there. I mentioned to some neighbors that my kid was at the Phoenix School and I was trying to remember at what age the lottery funded pre-k started, and they assumed I was talking about trying to get my son into college heights when he turned 4. They seemed quite surprised that it would be free to send my kid to the Phoenix school when he turned 4 (and I don’t think the places at the Phoenix school fill up all in the hugest hurry either!).

            1. Phoenix School is extremely hard to get into, at these days it is. There is a long wait list for both daycare spots and PreK, even though there is a lottery for the PreK.

          2. Actually Gibbs, the daycare is operated by the YMCA under the supervision of and via contract with CSD. As far as I know, it does not bring in money to anyone.

              1. The Y provides the staffing for the pre-K and runs the program. They are a contractor for CSD.

        2. Actually, College Heights is not open to non residents. You have to have a due date in order to get on the waiting list. However, it is very difficult to get into as parents with children already there have sibling preference. Last check, there were over 220 kids on the 0-3 waiting list – all residents.

    2. That is not entirely accurate. CSD is not just taking anyone who wants a pre-k spot, regardless of space constraints. There is a capped pre-k enrollment number of 180 for next year.

      They did get a grant to add a few new pre-k classes in the last year or two, which is GREAT news since there is HUGE demand for it in the community. In fact, they had to hold a pre-k lottery this year (the first from what I understand), and some City of Decatur resident kids are wait-listed for the fall. In addition, there was not enough room for kids of CSD employees (see initial comment above). Since pre-k funding is being slashed in many school systems, we are very fortunate.

      The pre-k space issue is supposed to be a one-year problem, or at least that’s how it was presented in the prior discussions on this issue. Once the new 4/5 Academy opens in 2011-2012 school year, it should free up some classroom space in the K-3s.

      1. There have been lotteries just about every year since the inception of pre-k in Decatur. The demand has always been high. There is nothing they are doing now that hasn’t been done by our fine pre-k teachers for well over a decade now.

      2. Corrections:

        -There is USUALLY a lottery for pre-K slots, though there have been a few years when there wasn’t. Lotteries go back at least to 2003 when I was trying to get my second-oldest into Pre-K.

        -The grant that CHECLC received is NOT for the Pre-K program (that wouldn’t make sense anyway, given it’s lottery funded). The grant was to expand the 0-3 program. One trailer was added to accommodate this expansion. Two more trailers will now be added to accommodate the additional Pre-Kers.

        -I am one of the “noisy neighbors” who did not want to see more trailers at Clairemont, but I do not live in the Clairemont area and am not zoned to that school. All I had to do was look at the numbers and look at the playground to determine that adding another trailer over there was a bad idea.

        -The ultimate goal for me and some (but not all) of those “noisy neighbors” is to eliminate trailers in Decatur. Period. There is no sense in having a perfectly wonderful brick and mortar school in our district that is not being used as a school. I plan to continue to put pressure on the CSD BOE until they relent and open Westchester. It’s time for Dr. Edwards to release her strangle-hold on this community and allow our kids to walk the halls of a school instead of being in trailers.

        -I don’t live in the Westchester area either. But opening that school would keep my own rising Pre-Ker out of a trailer.

        1. Bravo CSD Mom!
          Put DCS admin downtown Decatur; reopen Westchester. Nuff said …or not?!!
          This is an issue that will not go away …. keep up the pressure!

  6. TeeRuss – 180 spots are all that exist for Pre-K. There was a lottery already this year and now there is a waiting list for spots 181-whatever the list is up to now.

    1. Thanks for the update. I don’t think it necessarily changes my point though – why did they set the cap at 180, when we don’t have room for 180? Set the cap at our capacity.

      1. TeeRuss: You’re completely correct. It is a space problem. But it is too late to change the 180 PreK slots this year.

        The problem as I understand it, is that CSD only recently determined that we will no longer have space for the 60 PreK students which have been at the Frasier Center and Oakhurst (40 and 20 children respectively).

        Enrollments into PreK programs throughout the city and its surrounds has already occurred. And CSD has already held its lottery. I.e., It is too late in the game to cut 60 children loose. So we’re faced with finding a 1 year work around.

        I completely understand and sympathize with College Heights parents who feel that 60 additional students will be a significant burden the College Heights campus and grounds. There are requirements attached to the funds for 0-PreK which require sufficient green space. I understand that the playground space at College Heights will be expanded next year. Conversely, significant play space at Clairemont would have to go away to accommodate trailer addition(s).

        If CSD has found a way at College Heights to provide enough classrooms (albeit with trailers) _and_ expand the play space… that sounds… good.

        I honestly believe that those 60 PreK children will have a much better experience next year at College Heights, than they would have had at Clairemont. And I also believe that the negative effects of those extra enrollments would more negatively affect Clairemont that College Heights.

        I’ll understand if others disagree. And I understand that PreK at Clairemont would have been a commuting blessing for parents on the north side of the tracks.

        I hope we can agree to disagree… without being disagreeable.

        1. I think it is better to have the preK under one roof, but in trailers?? Nope. What about WESTCHESTER?

          1. Westchester would have made sense for a lot of reasons. We’re told yet again, that it is there if we need it. Do we need it yet? Perhaps we will after our 1 year temporary workaround?

            However, you made the cardinal error of referring to “Westchester”. Decatur has its own peculiar variant of Godwin’s Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law). -The first person to mention Westchester in any debate pertaining to the City Schools immediately loses.

            My recommendation: In the future is that all references to “Westchester” should be replaced by the symbol ‘ʬ’ or referred to as “the school formerly known as Westchester”. Then perhaps we can have a rational discussion involving whether or not it makes sense to use ʬ as a primary grade school.

            (FYI: this is just a joke. Perhaps not a very funny one… but a joke none the less)

            In all seriousness… I am sorry to see another school overcrowded. Looking forward, I would like to see a solution that preserves our PreK slots without overtaxing our K-12 capacity. Westchester will likely play a significant role in that conversation.

            It would be helpful to know how the 0-PreK finances work in detail. How many 0-PreK students we have at each age grouping. And the requirements involved in serving those populations. I hope this data will be made public and available in whatever process eventually determine what happens in the year after next.

            1. Even the letter “W” is tainted. And seriously, the old Westchester was the wonderful place it was because of the talented and dedicated principal Ms. Kuebler and the teachers and staff who were there at the time. The name should have probably been retired when Ms. Kuebler retired as we do with special baseball players.

              I think it needs a new name so all parties can talk about it more objectively. Hidden Cove Park School? Scott Blvd. School? Westside School?

            2. In reference to Godwin’s law–I have to ask if your statement is tantamount to saying any mention of Westchester is equivalent to mentioning Hitler.

              1. The only response to this that I will give, is that the point of Godwin’s Law is:

                The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.

                Westchester is such a loaded word in this community, and inevitably comes up in school related discussions as a divisive trolling flamebait.

                troll: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29
                flamebait: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamebait

                Use of Westchester in this manner has made valid and appropriate discussion involving Westchester nearly impossible.

              2. All true. So mentioning Westchester IS like Hitler–in a certain, blog-page-post context.

                Clearly the Northside folks want ‘Chester reopened–it’s a perfectly good school right in the neighborhood, like Winnona Park in my neighborhood. What is amusing is that if enrollment continues to increase (or they run out of room), and CSD continues putting trailers on the Southside, then at some point the Southside parents will join the Free ‘Chester! chorus.

                Oh, and I am so glad I am not “Flame Bait”…

        2. Looks like my ignorance of the overall situation caused some of this kerfuffle, so let me apologize for posting without all of the facts. After reading more about it on Decatur News Online, I now get it – pre-K capacity issues are the result of a temporary displacement of the 2 rooms at the High School, which are undergoing a construction project funded by a federal grant. The CSD board did the right thing in pursuing the grant, knowing that there was a downside in the pre-K space available for this year. They have to add 2 trailers somewhere for just this year for this reason. I’ve got no criticism of them in this issue.

          We’ve all got to understand and accept the big picture here, which I think has two major storylines:

          – One, that we have a very small school system, which is on balance a great thing, as it allows us and the board to have significantly more control of strategic and operational decisions. We are, in short, more nimble, and less of a bureaucratic nightmare like the county systems in Metro ATL that have 50,000+ students each.

          But this has a downside, in that we don’t have as many physical options for locating students – we can’t simply redraw district lines across a broad geography in order to deal with neighborhood inflows/outflows. So our small system has an outsized exposure to enrollment fluctuations, and not as much critical mass to quickly add/reduce capacity.

          – Two, that we have been experiencing a surge of enrollments, which I believe is both an indication of the quality of our school system – the market likes our product – and a one-time gentrification trend in the heretofore underdeveloped Southside.

          This gentrification trend is a potential longterm issue that we don’t focus on. We cannot assume that enrollment increases will continue linearly forever. At some point the cost of housing, which is rising due to the surge in demand, starts to price out young families, and enrollments plateau or even start to decrease. I think we are in the midst of a schoolchildren boom here, and it’s not sustainable. So decisions about building permanent new facilities need to consider this.

          1. I completely agree.

            The questions going forward are:
            – when will the enrollment growth will stop?
            – what is the range within which enrollments will fluctuate?
            – How best to use our sites and facilities to provide the necessary capacity flexibly and efficiently

            No crystal ball.

            Hard questions.

  7. I liked the old solution. Perhaps I should draft a group letter to CSD and publicly criticize them so I can get my way. We’ve just overcrowded college heights now. Oh well, apparently whining does work.

      1. I’m not happy about it either. My older kid will be a first grader at Clairemont, and my younger will be in Pre-K.

      2. For those who don’t know, what’s the downside for College Heights? Less playspace? Weird lunch schedule? Less parking? Putting preKers in trailers?

  8. In this case, a hand full of parents (less than 10 people) made all the difference in the world. Good for them for standing up to what they felt was a bad decision.

    In the end, the decision of the approximately 60 Pre-K students being placed at Clairemont or College Heights makes very little difference to me.

    However, what concerns me as a Decatur resident is who is running our school system? The loud parents in one neighborhood or the school systems superintendent?
    The loud parents qualify this as Dr. Edwards “reconsidering her initial decision” …… opposing parents question if the Superintendent is compliant to browbeating and will waiver on her decisions if pushed. If in fact “our perception is our reality”, then the reality is we have a submissive school system to public opinion.

    1. Don’t forget that, in Decatur, having been successful at procreation automatically makes one an expert in how to run a school system. So maybe Dr. Edwards should be commended for seeking such esteemed counsel. 🙂

      By the way, DM, now that you’re post-delivery, can you please chime in with an authoritative voice on what needs to be done?

      1. I like the way you think, Scott, and hope that having two kids makes me doubly-qualified to grab the reins from Dr Edwards — or entitles me to continue using goofy, pretentious words like “entreaties” (sorry for that, BTW). :o)

      2. If Scott and James were correct, I would have complete control of the system. My status as a parent of 4 kids combined with the browbeating I’ve been giving Dr. Edwards and the Board over the last ten years should be sufficient enough to make ME superintendent.

        No, I cringe at your assertion that Dr. Edwards succumbs to browbeating by parents. In fact, the opposite is true. She is only starting the process of learning to listen to her constituents. It is very hard for her to step back from her monarch-like attitude.

        1. Even though I don’t necessarily sympathize with the Clairemont parents, I have heard similar about Edwards. Actually, we aren’t her constituents. She’s accountable the board. And the board needs to make her be more directly involved with the parents. This school system is too small for her to be as insulated as she is.

    2. > the reality is we have a submissive school system to public opinion.

      Or you might say that we have a Board and Superintendent who don’t lose sight of the ultimate objective to nurture individual children… while trying their best to strike a balance between authoritarianism and collectivism.

      Is it better to do what is right or to assert unwavering control? Efficiency lies in-between.

      Small schools systems are more significantly affected by fluctuations in enrollments, funding, etc. The only constant appears to be that change is constant. We need to recognize that it is a messy and difficult balancing act. We can’t make things better, if we are so wedded to the appearance of control, that we are unwilling to question decisions or re-evaluate situations as they change and develop over time.

      I’m thankful that Dr. Edwards is willing to keep options open and listen to the community. When community members “push”, she listens to what they have to say and then makes her own decisions.

      She has no doubt made her life more difficult by making a decision which could be interpreted as you have. She must have felt that it was better than the alternative.

  9. The overcrowding is a district problem, not a Clairemont problem. The superintendent turned it in to a Clairemont problem by dealing with a district problem by putting trailers at Clairemont.

  10. CSD could solve this problem without further overcrowding any of our elementary schools or College Heights by using Westchester Elementary. It’s classrooms and playground are age appropriate. It is our only elementary school that does not have trailers behind it. It’s green-space begs for children. I have heard no valid arguments as to how it would be more expensive to utilize Westchester Elementary than it is to buy two more trailers and cram them onto valuable green-space. Let’s not sink to name calling and neighbor bashing when we could be working as a community to make the best decisions for the welfare of all of the children in The City of Decatur. Let’s work together to help the schools move forward with sound environmental, educational, financial and children-focused planning.

          1. “Barely or not at all”? Really?

            Barely is still a win.

            “Not at all”? So, there’s a new school board member? Didn’t think so.

            Face it: “almost won” means “lost”. Karass, whatever message you meant to send, you and your candidates lost. Get over it.

            1. No matter who won, the last election was worthwhile. Many years, incumbents in Decatur have no opposition; last fall, incumbents had substantial opposition and almost lost a seat. That’s rare in the last 15 years in Decatur. The School Board and CSD seem to have gotten the message loud and clear because they’ve been paying more attention to feedback, communicated more proactively, and used and respected for School Leadership Teams more. It’s not perfect but clearly a sea change.

              By next summer, just like last summer, potential school board candidates will be considering whether or not they want to run for School Board and whether or not there’s much community support for them. How it goes will depend on how the communities in each district judge current performance of CSD and the Board. No matter how it turns out, it’s a useful process. There’s no reason to get over it.

  11. I agree with Tammie. Also, I just have to ask – where is this letter? We’ve received no letter detailing this change or the effect it will have on the Pre-K program at CHELC. And I would expect some MAJOR impacts to the program. Outside of placing the extra Pre-K classes at Westchester, placing them at a mixed grade school was a much better solution. With mixed grades, you can alter schedules so that the younger grades eat earlier, play outside earlier, take bathroom breaks firsts, etc. If done correctly, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd-graders don’t even realize that the Pre-Kers exist. But if you’re looking at an entire school overcrowded with mostly 4-year old children, what do you do for a scheduling standpoint? How long are some of these young children going to have to wait until the cafeteria is free, or to get out of their trailers and play outside? What’s going to happen to the after school program at CHELC? From what I understand, there is barely enough room in after school for the current lot, what if a good portion of the 60 extra children need after school care as well? No matter how you feel about green space, trailers, etc. stacking 4-year olds on top of 4-year olds has to be the worst of all possible solutions to this issue from both a logistical and quality of care standpoint, in my opinion. And I would hope, if a letter does indeed arrive, it explains in detail how this decision will impact the program.

    1. I got a letter from Suzanne Kennedy that they were thrilled and excited to have all the pre-k classes at one location at the ELC. Absent was any discussion of where they would find room for an additional 60 children. Maybe this will be sprung on parents at the parents’ orientation in July. Anyone paying attention to this debate would know that the kids will have to be in trailers, but a lot of the pre-k parents are new to the system and are not aware of all these behind-the-scenes issues. So, if you have a child going to pre-k at the ELC he or she has a 1 in 3 chance of being in a trailer. Even though they were deemed to be too young to be placed in trailers when they were originally put at Clairemont, apparently they’re plenty old enough to be in trailers at the ELC. I also share the concern of others that the Superintendent seems to make decisions that are final, until of course, she changes her mind. She backtracked on two decisions that she made for Clairemont in a matter of weeks: the consolidation of the rising 3rd grade classes from 5 to 4 and the location of the pre-k classes. What lesson are we to take from this? She either isn’t really thinking through decisions before she makes them and needs parents to point out what should be obvious factors to be considered or she will change her decisions if people complain. Personally, the Superintendent’s indecision has caused a lot of problems in my family and I am not happy about it.

      1. You know, CSD has no obligation whatsoever to provide preK to anyone, and people seem to be forgetting that. The vast majority of public school systems only provide a select few preK spots.

        The mistake was made her when CSD admitted more preK students than it has classroom space to accommodate. Hopefully, they will not make that mistake again next year.

  12. What I find absolutely amazing, considering the extremely high Decatur taxes, is that any of your children are in trailers. I would be lighting my torch and finding my pitchfork…

    1. Yes, because the CSD admins are all out to get you.
      To quote TeeRuss, “CSD is a victim of its own success.”
      What is wrong with trailers, exactly? And are our taxes really “extremely high”?

      1. CSD has been a “victim of its own success” for at least two decades, and still hasn’t reached the peak enrollment of the late 1990s, when there wasn’t a trailer in sight. So what’s the problem now?

        1. Three more schools were open for K-5 (College Heights, Westchester and 5th Avenue), and there were very few, if any preK and 0-3 students in these buildings.

          1. There were maybe 80 pre-k students in the system then. Clairemont didn’t have a pre-k – not enough space. Their 4-year -olds went to the Westchester pre-k, and there was a lottery. The 0-3 was at Oakhurst, but fewer in number.

        2. Actually we now have more students than we have had in decades… And next year we are projected to have even more.

          Based on the data from the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/), the peak in enrollments since 1986 was 2837 K-12 students in 1997.

          In her May 7th letter (http://www.decaturmetro.com/2010/05/11/superintendent-reinstates-fifth-3rd-grade-class-at-clairemont/), Dr. Edwards refers to 2847 students.

          (Based on last years’ 2766 K-12 enrollments as documented in the District Report Card 2009, the growth this year at the K-3’s, the 180 PreK children and the unspecified 0-3 students. I believe there can be no doubt that 2847 is a reference to the number of current K-12 students.)

          Which would indicate that we now have more students than we have in decades.

    1. Ok, so who said CSD was buying 20 year old trailers? I think it’s pretty clear they are disposable and not really investments outside of having classroom space.

      Sorry, I grew up in Florida and the more trailers a school had the better it was. Demand for schools leads to an increase of students–and you can’t jam 35 kids in a brick classroom.

      These complaints are class-based, and I am, after living in several single and double-wides over the years, deeply offended. Besides, without trailers and their parks, where would the show Cops get its material? Clairemont?

      Everyone, when the topic turns this way we should all cheer, Free Westchester! and save some time.

      1. My son was in a trailer this year. He had a great year.

        Local property taxes provide 65-70% of CSD revenue. Property taxes are per-property not per-pupil. Rising enrollments effectively decreases per-pupil funding from property tax revenues. And please make no mistake: State per-pupil funding does not cover the cost of educating our students.

        So in our case, when success equates with increasing enrollments… then success translates into decreasing per pupil funding.

        I think the appropriate buzz words to mention at this point are “challenge” and “opportunity” 🙂

        I am not against the use of trailers as a workaround for temporary fluctuations in enrollments. But I do think that using trailers as permanent classrooms indicates that a school system has failed to plan for and address its long term needs. I won’t discount the safety concerns of housing students in trailers. Or the difficulty in rationalizing children in trailers while our administration occupies a functional primary grade facility. For me, trailers aren’t a class issue. They don’t make sense from our long term site capacity or financial planning needs.

        When you do the math, most people seem to agree that it takes around 20 years for brick and mortar to be less expensive than leasing trailers. As you may have noticed, CSD has not had trailers for 20 years. So I am very hopeful that we can find that long term balance which is flexible and affordable for the next 20 years. That said, unless we fail to deliver on our reputation for strong academics, I don’t see enrollments declining any time soon.

        In my personal opinion, and that is all that it is… that means we have at least 2 choices:

        We can fully implement the Reconfiguration Committee’s recommendation for Option #13 which was endorsed by the Superintendent and accepted by the Board of Education. Most people recognize this as the option which has led us to rebuild 5th Avenue. Most people don’t realize that we haven’t implemented the portion of Option #13 which addressed K-3 overcrowding. Namely adding 7 classrooms split between Glennwood and Winnona Park. This option has a lot going for it. Avoiding opening another facility is more operationally efficient. And it has already undergone a public community involved process. -However, it does not resolve the 0-PreK overcrowding problem. So addressing 0-PreK would likely require bring us back to the table in an open, transparent, community involved process.

        Alternatively, we can re-open Westchester and convert most of our K-3’s to PreK-3’s. This is a no construction solution. It would be less operationally efficient than fully implementing Option #13. But it would also address the 0-PreK overcrowding problem. However, it has not been vetted by an open, transparent, community involved process.

        Perhaps there are other solutions out there waiting to be found. Let’s find one that works for all of Decatur. Better yet, let’s get involved in that open, transparent, community involved process.

  13. I believe that there is a widespread misconception that pre-K in our system is completely (or almost completely) funded by state lottery money. Dr. Thomas Van Soelen recently told a parent that CSD pays about $25,000 per pre-K teacher per year, the entire salary of the administrator, and all facility and maintenance costs. (Note: The cost of putting two trailers at College Heights is probably in the range of $50,000 to $100,000.) The parent didn’t find out about any expenses for paraprofessionals and transportation.

    I’m not standing firmly by these numbers, given that they are second hand and I was told that they were estimates in response to a verbal question, but I’ll email Dr. Van Soelen to ask for the exact costs.

    1. I am sure the salaries and administrative costs are paid directly by CSD, but aren’t a large portion of those costs offset by revenue from the lottery program?

  14. GAH!

    I am starting to feel good about not reading Decatur Metro before moving here last year. If I had, i would have had a completely different perception of what CSD was like as opposed to the wonderful experience we had this past year with one child in CH’s PreK and another child in the CH 0-3 daycare program. I know my post is not addressing some of the concerns you are all bringing up here. I just wanted to commend and praise our time at College Heights from teachers, to para professionals, to administrators. It wasn’t perfect all the time but I am just thankful for all the opportunities my kids had this past year. As a young parent just starting out in the school system, I am sure I will gather CSD gripes over time. But for right now, kudos to a great year, CSD.

    Oh, and the letter that Don refers to from Dr Edwards was sent to all current CHELC parents on Friday.

    And while I am sure there are a few parents in the 0-3 program that are non Decaturites (like YMCA employees) for whatever reason, I know that I had to prove my our proof of residence several times this year and all but one family in our room is living in Decatur. I’ve started carrying a copy of our mortgage coupon in my wallet. I would love for someone to address the lack of 0-3 daycare centers in 30030, but that is a topic for another post I guess.

    1. I can see how it makes sense for a hard enrollment cap based on capacity for the pre-K kids at College Heights. Even with the state funding (whether partial or full), it doesn’t make sense for the program to take in more kids than it ‘s capacity. It also doesn’t make sense (at least to me) to put the burden on the traditional elementary schools, all of which are experiencing major growth issues. There are other pre-K options in Decatur and the K-3 kids should not be penalized with less playground space, increased trailers, and 10 am lunches, etc.. The simple solution should be to keep enrollment of pre-k at a hard cap based on capacity at College Heights. You could make it need based and then hold a lottery for the difference up to a set capacity level.

      Not sure of the background, but wouldn’t there have been some advance knowledge that the 60 kids could no longer be housed at Fraser Center and Oakhurst before the capacity was set at 180? Maybe the capacity issue came as a surprise and it wasn’t expected to be a problem. However, if there were concerns, why was the cap not reduced prior to the lottery?

    2. We’ve also had a very good experience in CSD. Don’t read these blogs any more (and don’t even think about reading yahoo discussion groups)!

      I’ve never really understood the fixation on buildings and locations. I get it if there are huge disparities in a system, but I really don’t see that here (at least not anymore). No one school will ever be perfect, and I simply can’t afford–tax-wise–perfection in every aspect of my kids’ schools. And enrollment will always be changing, that’s just how life is.

      As for teaching….the majority of my kids’ pre-K — 5 teachers have been PHENOMENAL. What I care about is CSD hiring good principals, who then hire and support good teachers. I am so thankful for the teachers my kids have had. I’m sure they could teach my kid in a room with a dirt floor with 50 kids in it, and they’d still be awesome. (No please don’t allow this GA! I just meant they’d still be awesome if they HAD to do it!)

      Go teachers! Pay them more!

      1. Way to put the focus back on the things CSD is doing so well 🙂

        And here is a sound out for our administration for attracting and retaining such great teachers!

      2. I completely agree that phenomenal teachers and the principals who hire them is 99% of the success of CSD. Sometimes that success seems DESPITE all the administrative and logistical hassles. One concern I had about building a new school ANYWHERE is that loan payments take a large chunk of money out of the CSD operating budget. That’s money that could be put towards the paraprofessionals, teachers, and staff who are in direct contact with out children every minute of the school day. This is one reason that parents are so passionnate about the decisions that CSD makes–they really do have a direct, measurable, tangible effect on our children. The money spent on in one area is money not spent on another critical area. As taxpayers, with or without children, we should have an effective voice in these decisions. Administrators need to make decisions but they are not gods. They cannot know everything about all issues. I’m not a great fan of planning jargon, but there’s a reason that the term “stakeholder” became common in the world of policy and planning in the last ?25? years. Decisions without early and appropriate feedback from a substantial and representative group of stakeholders have a greater chance of errors in assumption, analysis, or general support.

    3. Roo–
      Here’s my opinion, and maybe many other feel this way, don’t know, BUT, it is precisely because the teachers are SO GREAT that people become so emotional about this issue. I have been so happy in the past with CSD and my children have had so many amazing teachers and parapros. This is what makes the CSD identity crisis so painful–we are aware of the wonderful past and potential. When the schools were K-5 it seemed more flexible and less chaotic. More continuity for kids and parents, therefore more involvement and commitment from the parents because their time and commutes were not split between two and three schools. And for those of us who were around back then, when the administration decided to suddenly close Westchester instead of Clairmont, families were pitted against each other and it was absolutely horrible. A friend who runs an amazing art camp was pro-Westchester, had a sign in her yard, and that summer children in the Clairmont neighborhood wouldn’t attend her camp so she couldn’t run it. Westerchester was the renovated facility with wonderful green space and now entire classrooms are used for admin offices? It’s not the teachers and again, our experience was so amazing. What’s so great about this blogs that this time it’s out in the open. It needs to be.

  15. I am sure the little 4 years olds going to pre-k do not care about all these things being mentioned-just think how excited they are about going to pre-k! Don’t burst their bubble…

  16. Frankly, if I had a Pre-K kid in this situation, I’d look into another placement, especially if I didn’t need full day and if I hadn’t already been at ECLC for several years. It may be totally fine, but I’d be worried enough to do a little investigating of other options.

    BTW, your child does not have to be in the most academically advanced program in order to excel once they get to grade school. Preschool is not rocket science. I have two kids. One went to a very unstructured preschool that pretty much just fed them snack and let them play, and the other went to College Heights. Both are doing very well in grade school and did so from the start. It made no difference at all. What matters is that you are spending time with them reading, talking, playing games, showing them things, etc. If they are getting quality play, lots of chances to socialize, and they being read to, they are learning all they need.

    Here are all preschools in the Decatur area that I know of that may possibly have pre-K spots. Some are church based; some not; some have free pre-K.

    Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
    Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool (in a church – but not church based)
    Decatur First Methodist Church
    Phoenix School (GA Pre-K)
    Decatur Presbyterian Church
    Decatur First Baptist Church (GA Pre-K)
    Suburban Nursery School and Pre-K (GA Pre-K)
    Friends School of Atlanta
    North Decatur United Methodist
    Preschool at the Heights (a bit far – but apparently very good)
    Druid Hills UMC
    Color Wheel (arts based program)
    Waldorf School

    1. Just FYI — Some of the church programs are only 1/2 day — a problem for the working parent. Phoenix School is full (they’ve already had a lottery for the few spots they had open). Suburban had a few spots left, First Baptist has a waiting list (as of 2 weeks ago).

      1. Yep, most of the ones listed are only half-day or “morning out” programs. Decatur is notoriously lacking in full-time daycare spots.

  17. Unfortunately, I had already told my incoming pre-K daughter that she would be attending school at Clairemont with her big sister. She was pretty crushed when I told her she wouldn’t be at Clairemont after all. It’s going to be a huge headache for us trying to figure out how to do the pick up after school, since there is only one me and I will somehow have to be on opposite sides of town at the same time. I wish I had known this matter was still under consideration. I would have spoken in support of the initial decision. Ten people signed a letter in support of not having pre-K at Clairemont, but how many other families like mine are out there? Now I’m wondering what the impact at College Heights will be.

    1. The way the CSD grade spans are configured, you will often have kids in two different schools, often on opposite sides of the track especially if you live on the north side. If your children are more than 3 years apart, they will never be together. In addition to the lack of flexibility for the school system when enrollment bulges, It’s a down side of the short grade span model. The old preK-5 model was much easier logistically for parents. But there are lots of folks who love the preKs concentrated at College Heights. And loads that love the 4/5 Academy where kids mix from all over town before going on the cliquish years of middle school. Private schools offer more continuity but more expense, the problems that a lot of disposable income offers children, lower paid teachers, and less help for kids with learning, intellectual, or other disabilities (with the exception of those schools aimed at children with special needs). Everything’s a trade-off.

      Agree that it’s crummy to have told a child one thing and then have to take it back. CSD and the community have to figure out a way to have these discussions early in the decision process, not late when folks feel deceived. Hopefully, CSD is going to involve School Leadership Teams and the system charter leadership team earlier on in future decisions so those groups can solicit and coordinate community input in a more organized and proactive fashion. It’s hard for a few staff in Central Office to do all this alone. SLTs have parents and teacher members who have been elected to represent other parents and teachers and have a better feel for what reality is like on the frontlines of family life.

    2. Buses. The Pre-K kids ride to Glennwood, get off the bus and get on their neighborhood K-3 bus with their older sibling and they ride home together. (The K-3 buses also go to Glennwood first before dropping off in the neighborhoods.) You don’t have to go anywhere, they get to ride the bus (super cool in their eyes) and you help save the environment by keeping your car in park.

      Oh, and as Karass said, if you’re staying in Decatur get used to it. The kids will largely be at different schools from now on.

      1. The challenge is that mom will be away from home picking up the younger child when the elder child arrives after having walked/biked home. Buses are generally the best answer.

        1. My older child will have just turned 6, and is not old enough to walk by herself. Maybe when she’s eight. We are not far enough away from Clairemont for her to ride the bus. I suppose I could put my four-year-old on the bus, but I thought the day was already going to be rather long for her, and a bus commute could add significantly more time depending on the route it takes. Also, she will have just turned four, and I am hesitant for her to do the bus, though I know other kids her age have done it and it worked out OK. I was just so happy when I found out they would both be at Clairemont, because it cleared a major worry from my mind.

          The other problem is if the bus is too fast, and she gets home before my older daughter and I do.

          Also, I know when the kids are older and in different schools, it will be easier. It’s just now when they are so young. I know I can’t be the only one in this situation.

          1. I remember the tyranny of the school bus schedule when you have prek-1st graders. It can be nerve-racking to be racing against the clock to meet the bus. It’s better to be late for picking up a child at school than it is to not be at the bus stop. Every parent has at least one bus stop near-miss horror story. It’s terrifying if a little one is left at the bus stop when you’re not there and it’s humiliating if they are kept on the bus and you have to chase the bus to find them.

            Another option for you is signing up one of your children for the after school program. I believe that the CHELC YMCA after care program is cheaper than Clairemont Animal Crackers. It gives you a lot of freedom and peace of mind when you’ve got tight afternoon schedules. But I know it’s a drag to pay for child care if you aren’t even working. The Clairemont-area carpooling may be a really neat and so-Decatur solution.

    3. I am one of those rabid “free Westchester” parents, the ones that were so upset over the closing. the reason i was so upset was that i knew it made no sense then, and it still makes no sense now. we have problems that will not be fixed until we figure out that we have adequate space for school children, and tell the administration to please move to an office building, not a school building .. trailers are the enemy, they are not good, ESPECIALLY since we are in Decatur, — WE ARE NOT GWINNETT COUNTY.
      please. spare me the educational experiments and look at hard numbers. the anger comes from the administration not listening about keeping k-5 and for trying new configurations … they had so many people telling them that the demographics were going up, and no one was listening because they weren’t looking at the hard, on the ground evidence, only “figures” from consultants …but if you just walked around the neighborhoods …. ., baby balloons on every other mailbox, please, anyone with could have just looked and told you that the city was a baby factory and the demographics were going up…we are a “victim” of our own success …
      Get your act together DCS,. get rid of the 0-3 stuff, and the pre-k and put the k-5 back where it needs to be. we are a bunch of entitled babies if we think we have to have 0=3 … for years we figured out to do day care and pay for it, and work, or here’s an idea? stay home with your kids? how novel….
      you all are spoiled beyond belief if you think you have to have this , that you’re entitled to it ..,
      it’s late and I’m ranting, but I really believe we have gotten beyond what we need to do. DCS should not provide pre-k or daycare. it should provide solid education for k-12. then we would have room for everyone, no trailers.

      1. Not what everyone wants to hear, but well said Cranky.

        CSD used to have early childhood programs for disadvantaged families. I would very much like to see us keep that. However, I never fully understood why they have taken on early childhood education for families that have other options, especially now .. when it is impacting K-12 education.

        I used preK at College Heights. It was wonderful, and I’d do it again. However, I would never consider it any sort of right or entitlement and I certainly would not want it creating a financial or space burden on CSD’s first mission – educating school aged kids.

        1. Ditto for us. Used College Heights and liked it but didn’t see what it had to do with reducing the achievement gap or even getting an early start on enrichment for kids with potential learning disabilities. Parents have to push their to get their kids evaluated and served for special needs just like in any other CSD school.

  18. Two thoughts after reading through these 51 comments:
    1) One bad and contested set of enrollment predictions in 2003-2004 continues to reverberate, have consequences, and cause divisiveness. It’s a lesson for future projections.
    2) Short grade spans–e.g. 0-preK, K-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9-12 are less flexible when you have enrollment bulges. This lack of flexibility is only one factor in deciding grade spans and is not an indictment of them. But it means that these kind of issues, like where do we put preK trailers, will come up often. Both CSD and the community need to accept that, figure out how to handle the necessary community discussions proactively and early on in the decision making process, and avoid residents blaming other residents for issues that are systemic, recurrent, and not any one group’s fault.

    1. I’m not sure I understand how shorter grade spans are less flexible. If you have more (or less) children than expected for a given grade, isn’t that a problem no matter what the grade span ?

      In fact the current configuration with several classes of each grade in each building is more flexible than what we faced with K-5s. Then there was only one, maybe 2 classes of each grade in each school. An additional 2 or 3 students to a grade could cause big problems . Back then, there were some years that students were shifted to other schools after the first day of school because enrollment was for a given grade was greater than expected and classes were full.

      1. You know, you’re right. With just one class per grade, a couple extra students would be a huge headache for administrators.

        I don’t know how one vets enrollment projections, but I honestly think this board and this system is far more open to public comment than any other school system I’ve ever seen.

        If you don’t agree, ask somebody covered by DeKalb County School Board, where they won’t let publicly funded schools be used by public charters, or in Atlanta, where you don’t get a school bus if you live closer than a mile and a half (I think) from school, no matter how many winos the kid has to walk past on Ponce to get there.

        Not saying the board doesn’t have some improvements to make. But the board isn’t perfect, and we shouldn’t expect too much.

    1. The only problem with this photo is that the lens angle is too wide and it makes the unappealing, muddy, dirt area look much bigger than it is. The “field” is no longer a field. Essentially, the only decent play area left for Clairemont is the groomed play equipment area and the concrete pavilion. There’s no decent open space. Clairemont is definitely not the garden spot of CSD!

      1. Good point, Karass. The photo does make the site look bigger. Let’s do it by the numbers…..

        The current dirt play field at Clairemont is +/-90′ x 90′ (8,100 sf).
        By comparison, the green field behind Glennwood,is +/-160′ ‘x 230′ (37,000 sf)
        Clairemont field with additional trailer +/-90′ x 65’ (5,850 sf)

        With a trailer and 60 children added to Clairemont as originally proposed by CSD,
        Glennwood and Clairemont would have both “served” 400 children next year.

      2. But this is what you signed up for when the Clairemont E. neighbors lobbied….and lobbied HARD…to keep this school open and to close Westchester, which had a MUCH larger playground space.

        It really is kinda hard for the Westchester parents who lost their school to listen to people complain about the increased traffic and problems with cramped playground space.

        You asked the school system to keep your school open, despite these restrictions. Now, you got what you wished for. Want us to move the local elementary school back over to Westchester? Would solve both of these problems instantly.

        1. Um that wouldn’t have been me. I’m still wearing a Scarlet “W”. And it’s true that a few folks got what they asked for, but then it wasn’t what they asked for, and off they went to private school and left the rest of us with the mess. But most of the parents with concerns NOW didn’t lobby for anything back in 2003-2004–many weren’t even here in Decatur yet or had babies or toddlers only so were blissfully unaware of what was happening.

  19. In defense of the Clairemont parents and others who spoke up on this issue, I find it really unfortunate that the initial decision came out in the way it did. The Superintendent made an initial decision without any input from those affected. It was a simplistic decision focused solely on numbers (which themselves turned out to be inaccurate; when they changed, the analysis changed as well). There has been no indication that any consideration was given to how the crowding and trailer placement would physically impact the school.

    Being on the receiving end, the Clairemont parents that had concerns were then forced to fight for the opportunity to be heard. Eventually, many different views were expressed, both by Clairemont parents (some of whom spoke in favor of the initial decision, some against), and by people with children at College Heights, Winnona Park, and other schools. Having taken a deeper look at the issue, and considering factors that were not taken into account in the initial decision, the Superintendent then made a different decision, which presents a different set of problems.

    Now we have a changed decision that many people also find highly disappointing, and they now look at the Clairemont parents as being somehow at fault. We have children that have been told they are going to one school, that now have to be told they’re going to another, and parents that are understandably upset as well.

    It did not have to be this way. Had there been an open process first, then a decision, this would all have been much different. This is a decision that impacts more than one school, and an open, systemwide discussion could have been held using the System Charter Leadership Team, which would have been a great forum for this discussion, or even simply by bringing this up at a regular school board meeting. Had that happened, there might still have been people disappointed by the ultimate result, but they wouldn’t be left feeling that a small group of parents had driven the discussion. Nor would parents and children be having to deal with the frustration of being told they’d be attending one school, then another.

    Parents should speak up when they believe a decision is being made that will negatively impact their child’s school; that’s inherently a good thing. But there are better and worse ways of having these discussions. My hope is that the next time a decision like this needs to be made, there will be an open process for interested stakeholders to express their concerns in a way that is proactive rather than reactive.

    1. And next year… how about only accepting as many preK kids as you can house at College Heights… in the building.

    2. Actually, the process is very open in Decatur compared to other places and I do think that occasionally we need to trust in the people we hire and elect and chill a bit on the second guessing. Sometimes I feel like certain parents around Decatur feel like their opinion and their stake in the situation matters more than anyone else’s. Sometimes there is too much “my opinion”ing and not enough listening. Just sayin’.

    3. BethK, I totally agree with you. There should have been an open, publicized proactive questioning of stakeholders before any decision was made. When people feel their perspectives have been listened to and considered in a fair manner, there is less bitterness when a decision is made. Right now, at the very least, there is a perception of unfairness which wouldn’t be there if this had been handled better. I also have a lot of unanswered questions right now, mainly pertaining to what the situation will be at College Heights.

      I also still have my transportation issues, detailed in my previous comments. I am leaning against putting my three-year-old (who will turn four less than a week before school starts) on a 45 minute bus ride to/from school. Guess I will have to be resourceful. Wish the school times could be staggered a bit. Even 15 minutes would really help out. I just wish there had been a forum where I could have voiced my concerns, felt I was listened to, and maybe met others in my situation. And I wish I had been informed.

      1. Jenny, the good news is that Dr. Edwards has expressed a desire – and I believe that she is most sincere – to work at establishing methods in which the entire community can better have input before major decisions are made. From Teach’s comments (below), it seems clear that she already has effective methods in place for soliciting such input from teachers. Dr. Edwards is specifically welcoming suggestions on how to foster an open and inclusive dialogue with respect to determining if and how to reopen Westchester at some point in the future.

        Also, I believe that you will find it reassuring to know that many people do sympathize with your situation with regards to transporting children to different schools across town and, also, understand your concerns about overcrowding at College Heights. These were some of the reasons why many of those most vocal in asking that an additional trailer not be placed at Clairemont were as equally clear in requesting that Westchester, without trailers, be used as the alternative. Westchester was mentioned as an alternative at the initial Clairemont SLT meeting and in the open letter sent to Dr. Edwards. It was the only alternative that many of the speakers at the board meeting presented for consideration.

        In addition to these public expressions, I know that at least some of us also tried to talk to Dr. Edwards privately. I worked with a group of eight parents (encouraged by others)
        who actively discussed the reasons why Westchester was the “win-win” solution for our community and how it was feasible to effectively use the facility with minimal expense. After our brainstorming/vetting sessions, we sought to arrange a meeting with Dr. Edwards. This meeting did not occur, in main due to how insanely busy this time of year is for the Central Office, but we did email her our analysis.

        Unfortunately, that document did not reach Dr. Edwards’ office till the morning of the day that she announced her decision. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to also express your concerns directly to Dr. Edwards. Maybe she will reconsider her decision again, who knows? She has already demonstrated that she is willing to reanalyze major decisions in light of newly presented information and expressions of public concern. This, I believe, is an extremely critical leadership skill. After all, leaders are only humans. When dealing with complicated decisions and imposing deadlines, there are certain to be missteps along the way.

        1. Thanks, Lisa. I really appreciate what you have to say, and appreciate your taking the time to give me some information on what actually happened. I hope we can have a better, more open process for making these kinds of decisions in the future. Right now, I’m feeling pretty bummed out about this whole thing. My kid is still going to be in a crowded school, and now I have the additional transportation woes. If the process had been more open, at least I wouldn’t feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me. For the record, I know the teachers are great, and we’ll survive, just like everyone else. (But we might be late a lot.)

          I did write Dr. Edwards an email on Friday, but haven’t gotten a response yet.

          1. I would be surprised if you do. She’s never responded once to an email I have sent.

          2. I just have to respond to your posts because I am in the same situation as you (and feeling bummed out, too), but I have one option that you don’t which makes my situation a little better. I think your best move is to carpool. There are at least 5 families that I can think of who will have kids at Clairemont and at the ELC and I know that they are all interested in carpooling. The bus is not a realistic choice for a 4 year old: switching buses at Glennwood and getting home after 4 when they’ve been at school since 7:45? I don’t think so. Anyway, that’s my suggestion. The reason that my situation is the same, but a little different is that I have a child at Clairemont (like you) and a child who was enrolled at the ELC (like you). My younger child was super excited about going to school with his big sister and would tell people that he was going to Clairemont (like your younger child). My son is turning 5 in August so this was going to be his second time in pre-k (so this is the difference). Yesterday I withdrew him from the ELC and registered him for kindergarten at Clairemont. This was NEVER what I wanted to do, but I felt like it was going to be worse for him to go to a place that was unfamiliar and where I didn’t know what the learning atmosphere was going to be like because of the overcrowding and where he might be going in and out of a trailer 5 times a day. I also felt like my bitterness and anger over this situation was not going to give him a good feeling about going to school there. I know this is not a solution for you, but I do want people to know that someone (me) has decided not to send their child to the ELC because of the way this whole thing has played out.

            1. There used to be direct buses for the ECLC–the kids would go right from school to their busstop which was often their driveway, no changing at Glennwood. They’d get home about 2:45 PM at the latest depending on where their busstop was along the route. I’m not sure when the preK buses got folded into the hub and spoke system. The downside of the direct buses was that the kids had to catch it around 6:35 AM in the morning. The hub and spoke buses get the kids home between 3:10 and 3:25 PM depending where they are on the route, not 4 PM. The 4 PM buses are the Renfroe buses. The up side of the hub and spoke buses is that, if your preKer has an older sib, they will be joined by them at Glennwood and will get off at the busstop with them. So depending on the maturity of your older children, they can walk your preKer home and you don’t have to go to the busstop yourself. Most folks aren’t ready to let their 4 year old walk home from the busstop alone unless they can see him/her the whole way from their window, especially since the preK-1st grade age kids occasionally do goofy things like get off at the wrong stop or stay on the bus.

              If you have a few children in CSD, within a few years, you too can know the bus timing, all the bus numbers, and all the bus drivers. The latter group are wonderful people who often know your children as well as anyone else in CSD–they are really saints given their stress and pay.

            2. Your comments provide some insight into the bitterness and anger about the way things played out six years ago.

  20. Phoenix pre-k is hard to get into because there are only 20 slots most of which are taken by the rising Phoenix pre-school class. This year there are 19 kids in that class. So only 1-2 open spots as very few parents switch kids out of Phoenix for Pre-K. There is a lottery for those spots (never seen more than 4-6 spots) which are open to any dekalb county resident I think.

  21. So all of you complaining- will you continue to send your prek child to CHECLC because the other programs are full or not what you need?

  22. Open up Westchester. Then, when Fifth Avenue opens, there will be plenty of room.

  23. Have some faith in CSD. Our choices are great, great or great.

    In the words of my 5 year old who will be at Clairemont next year, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.”

    So, who did I p*ss off?

    1. I still think there’s a story behind the fact that it’s almost exclusively parents who have issues with the administration and there are few, if any, teachers who gripe.

      Seems to be a lot of love inside the institution. Quite different from DeKalb County School Watch, no?

      1. I don’t know if I wold openly gripe about my boss. Even on an ‘anonymous’ blog! Decatur reminds me of the very, very small town I grew up in. People KNOW!

      2. Speaking of the Dekalb County School Watch, seen this:

        “Superintendent Lewis, Pat Pope and others indicted”?

        Even if we sometimes disagree with the particular decisions or the processes used to arrive at them, having a non-corrupt, competent, dedicated, and well-funded school system all on its own probably puts us in the top 5% of school districts (although Dekalb County schools would make most districts look good by comparison).

      3. Nick, as someone who spent 13 years teaching in a Dekalb County Public High School, maybe I can provide some insights. First, my personal experience was that the teachers at my school were extremely hesitant to express their opinions and concerns to their direct administrators. Many, many times my faculty would gather prior to meetings and complain loudly and with a united voice about decisions made by the principal, only to fall completely silent when the principal or any administrator walked into the room.

        Similarly, there were many system wide issues on which teachers chose not to press the Central Office or School Board. One example: For years, most of the elementary students in Dekalb County Public Schools didn’t have recess. I’m not sure for how many years exactly, but my work in 2004-5 advocating for passage of HB103 (the recess bill) was inspired by the discovery that most of my high school students had never had a day of recess while they had been in elementary school. It was only late last year that a group of inspired and dedicated parents, well armed with supporting research, were successful in leading an effort to convince the Dekalb County School Board to mandate daily recess for all students in grades K-5. It is my belief that almost all teachers within the system applauded when hearing of this action, and I also strongly believe that such action would have taken place much earlier had many teachers expressed their professional concerns.

        If teachers in Dekalb County are now publicly expressing their concerns (I couldn’t exactly find where they were doing so on a cursory examination of the site you mentioned) then the situation must be very dire indeed. Without going into any details, that is the feedback I am getting from friends who are still teaching within the system. However, that is definitely not the case in our City Schools of Decatur. Our administration continues to make very good decisions on a regular basis. So, based upon my own personal experiences as a teacher, it does not at all surprise me that teachers within our system have refrained from expressing public criticism or concerns – at least on blog sites or at board meetings – regarding those decisions with which they do disagree. I can not speak as to whether or not they have expressed any concerns in more informal settings or privately to their administrators.

        Hope that helps.

      4. In response to DM’s comment…”I still think there’s a story behind the fact that it’s almost exclusively parents who have issues with the administration and there are few, if any, teachers who gripe.”…
        It should be stated that many teachers feel opposed to trailers and overcrowding of the elementary schools but do not feel at liberty to say so openly. This is a small school system and they do fear for their jobs. In fact, they have been told that there are hundreds of applicants waiting for their jobs.

        1. This is very true (teachers don’t feel at liberty to complain). I have been in the system a long time and have gotten to know many teachers quite well, even personally, and I have heard more than a few times the very private complaints of some teachers. Makes me sad, because most of the community thinks the teachers are 100% behind the board and the superintendent most or all of the time, and in fact this is not always the case.

      5. Thanks for the feedback everyone.

        On DeKalb County School Watch, the general practice is teachers comment anonymously in droves against the administration. Especially while Crawford Lewis was still in the Superintendent’s chair.

        DeKalb Officers is similar, except with police commenting anonymously instead of teachers.

        And just to note, I just said there was a story there. I didn’t say what the story was. 🙂

        Oh, and isn’t everyone opposed to trailers in the long run? I don’t think anyone here is actually advocating for permanent trailers. But we’ve got ourselves a growth problem here and right now the issue is building size and we must adapt. How we do that is what’s up for debate.

        1. So someone needs to start an anonymous blog for CSD teachers? Lots of them do not live in Decatur, though some do, so they may never bother to access the Decatur-oriented blogs.

  24. Thanks S! CHECLC has taught him well!

    You bet DM, teachers love CSD because they treat us well. I am respected as a competent teacher with valuable insights. If I had a serious concern I bet I could meet with top administrators within 24 hours and have my concerns really heard and considered. What other system can say that? CSD is small and well run. Honest mistakes, yes. Incompetence, no.

    I used to work for another local school system and I felt like the district’s administration was more a hindrance than a help. Being incompetent seemed to be a prerequisite for promotion. Lovely. It caused a lot of anger and dissension between the faculty and the district administration.

    In contrast, I know that if I have concerns with CSD I can express them. I feel heard because their intention is to have clear, open communication with the CSD staff. When important issues arise, such as school redistricting and furlough days, the Superintendent personally meets with the faculty. We also constantly answer anonymous surveys because CSD administrators want our opinions. When there are concerns it is so refreshing to be able to express them without animosity because I know I won’t be put off. They is no “us” and “them.” We are all in this together. You too, parents!

    The parents are a huge part of why CSD is great so a big hug to all of you. But for this thread I feel like- there is no perfect solution. Not expanding Pre-K in the face of demand would be irresponsible and potentially harmful. All you can expect are thoughtful responses from administrators and I think everyone has gotten that.

    One last point, when I spoke to Ms. Kennedy last summer she said that because of increased demand CHECLC applied and was awarded additional Pre-K funding from the state for 09-10. I infer that this is partly due to the economic reality that a CSD lottery funded Pre-K is a good way for a family to save $600-$800 a month, especially since CSD Pre-K is as excellent as private Pre-K. It is unreasonable to expect CSD could have predicted an increase in demand caused by a national financial crisis. So, the reason there are trailers isn’t short sightedness but a quick response to our community’s demand.

    No, I don’t get paid to say this. Yes, I love my job!

  25. Allow Winnona Park Stud to offer a thought not directly on point:

    Two years ago, Winnona Park Stud paid $14k or so for lil’ stud’s tuition at a private school. Last year lil’ stud went to pre-k at the Frasier Center (the 2 classes at DHS). The teachers at Frasier Center were head and shoulders above those at the private school. Any kids lucky enough to spend pre-k Ms. Harber, Perry, Shewan, et al will have a great year, even if the classes get relegated to the meat freezer at Giant Foods. Be good to those teachers – they spend their own money on our kids’ education. CSD does not provide them with classroom budgets which cover the expense of all the lessons they teach.

    1. I think it’s a rare parent that doesn’t worship the ground that CSD teachers walk on. I’m not saying that there aren’t occasional hires who don’t cut it but for the most part CSD teachers are some of the finest, most caring, most dedicated folks in the world. I could fill a whole blog with anecdotes of some of the wonderful things I have observed CSD teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff do. I urge all CSD parents to write thank you notes to their teachers when they observe those “beyond the call of duty” acts and to be sure and let principals and Central Office know when they recognize special accomplishments. Identifying and drawing attention to what’s going right is probably even more effective than pointing out what’s going wrong but it’s hard to remember and find the time to do that. And I highly recommend regularly asking your classroom teachers questions like “What do you need for the classroom?”, “How can I help?”, “I’m going to Sam’s Club–what can I pick up for you?” etc. Whatever state or local funding goes towards classroom supplies, it’s never enough and can’t cover things like trinkets for classroom spelling contests or healthy snacks. It’s harder to do this in middle and high school when kids have multiple teachers but that’s what email and standard CSD addresses ([email protected]) are for.

      I also think that parents who’ve been around a while have heard many quiet comments from teachers and staff, either on duty or off duty (many live right here in Decatur and are residents and voters too), that they could never communicate up the official chain of command. It’s like many workplaces in that regard. And it’s also true that no regular blog poster is truly anonymous in a small town like Decatur. So the relatively few comments from teachers on this blog should not be overinterpreted one way or another. I hope that CSD regularly surveys their staff anonymously (or at least confidentially since anonymity is tough to ensure) for satisfaction, concerns, suggestions for improvement etc. Most workplaces do that now that there’s so many easy on-line survey options.

    2. Kathy Harber taught both of my children, and she’s the BEST!!!!
      Her kids attend our schools are are excellent students.

    1. Having no dog in this fight and somewhat confused about who wants what I’ve gotta say – that is a pretty effective set of pictures. Shame that those Clairemont kids are sitting on towels on a worn-out dirt patch while that beautiful Westchester lawn goes unused.

      Give that neighborhood their school (and grounds) back.

      1. And let me tell you that those towels come home real raunchy! Do not send nice beach towels to the Clairemont playground. And be prepared that all pairs of pants will have ragged soiled edges within a few months of wearing. My kids grow so fast that I often pass on their hardly-worn clothes to someone else after they outgrow them. Not the pants they wear at Clairemont!

    2. That’s not all 340-whatever kids is it? It looks like no more than half the school. I don’t think you could fit the whole school on the field. (And of course, NO child ever stays home sick for Field Day!)

      In the spirit of complements where complements are due, I hear that it was a real fun day!

      1. Whoops, that’s compliments, not complements. I can hear the grammar police typing away….!

        1. I’ll confirm that Field Day was great.

          I was stationed at “continuous kick-ball” (non-stop kicking and running bases w/o any outs), which each class played for appoximately 7 minutes. I played continuously for 2.5 hours. It was a blast.

    3. Yep, those pictures made my stomach churn. I wasn’t at WP’s field day, but I wish someone would post pictures of our WP field day at their own field, a wide grassy expanse that easily accommodates the whole school.

      I do not see one blade of grass in those pictures of Clairemont other than over there at the very back rim on the right.

      I am envisioning all of those students in that beautiful Westchester grass and the shade of those lovely trees!

  26. That being said, I encourage central office to not add trailers to any of our greenspace. I urge central office to use a small portion of Westchester Elementary to house the 60 homeless pre-k if there is no other space for them, that doesn’t require more trailers.

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