Kindergarten Overflow in Some Decatur Schools Raises Some Concerns

A few days back Caleb wrote in…

I was wondering if you’d heard that despite our new elementary school and re-districting, schools are already overcrowded before the new school even opens. When we went to register my kindergartener for Oakhurst – about 100 yards from my house – I was told there is no more room in the district and she would have to start at Winnona Park.

I followed up with CSD’s Bruce Roaden to see what was up and he replied…

Registration for new Kindergarten students began February 1, 2011. Some schools have filled their Kindergarten slots and families that now register have secured a slot at another K-3 school.

I followed up with this clarifier, “So there isn’t a general overflow, just in isolated zones?”  He replied in the affirmative.

In the meantime, Caleb wrote this follow up on the Oakhurst Message Board…

I am looking for other Oakhurst parents negatively affected by the school redistricting process last fall. In early May, when my wife and I went to register our daughter for kindergarten, we were told that the Oakhurst kindergarten and 3rd grade are overfull, and that we have to register at Winnona Park. This, despite the opening of a 4th elementary school, and the fact that we already have an older child at Oakhurst.

During redistricting meetings, realtors and parents warned the school board that Oakhurst is growing faster than other districts, but board officials insisted otherwise and actually eliminated an Oakhurst kindergarten class. Now, the four remaining classes have 23 students each, above district guidelines, and an unknown number of Oakhurst families are being redirected to other schools. I say “unknown” because the school board vice-president last week refused to answer my question about how many children are affected. He also would not offer assurance that children sent to other districts, could return to Oakhurst the following year.

If anyone is in the same boat, or knows of a family who is, please contact me. I would like to press the district to return a 5th kindergarten class to Oakhurst this fall. At a bare minimum, I would like to win a guarantee that all Oakhurst children can attend their neighborhood school by the 2012-2013 school year.

I can understand the annoyance with your child being unable to go to a school 100 yards from your own home, however, the elementary schools are K-3, so it seems sort of impossible to zone precisely for all four grades, no?

Remember how hard the redistricting was when we were only thinking at the individual school level?  Here were talking about an expectation of zoning for four different classes, each which are of an unknown size in any given year.  Am I missing something?

168 thoughts on “Kindergarten Overflow in Some Decatur Schools Raises Some Concerns”

  1. Yikes! I wonder what this will mean for the trailers at Glennwood–will they go away or not? There are only 3 K classes planned for Glennwood right now.

  2. ” In early May, when my wife and I went to register our daughter for kindergarten, we were told that the Oakhurst kindergarten and 3rd grade are overfull, and that we have to register at Winnona Park.”

    Where is your responsibility? Registration was 3 months ago.

    1. You’re being so presumptuous. How do you know didn’t just move there or had another valid reason. Rude.

      1. Well, the person making the statement did say they have an older child at Oakhurst, so I presume they didn’t just move to the area. Anybody remember when they closed Westchester that they said the reason was a projected decline in school enrollment?

      2. Presumptuous? Rude? How could they have a child at Oakhurst if they just moved here or claim to be unaware of school policies if they have a child in the system? Maybe you need to work on your reading comprehension. Maybe you should actually read the post before you disparage commenters.

    2. I am going to give the benefit of the doubt if this family is new to the school or area. But with an older child at Oakhurst, how did you miss the numerous times about registering rising Kindergarteners in the Oakhurst school print newsletter (sometimes it was the only thing in the notice!), postings on the CSD website or the electronic emails that went out in March? I really truly feel for this family because I still don’t think CSD has a good grasp of how much the child population is exploding in Oakhurst. But I really felt that CSD tried hard this go around to get the word about registering starting in February.

  3. The thought of notifying the city of having a kid of a certain age sort of creeps me out, but I wonder if there is precedent for a system of tracking the number of 2 year olds, or 3 year olds, or whatever, who are in the district– even a voluntary one. I have no idea how I actually feel about such a system, and it would probably get hopelessly inaccurate with people moving around. But it strikes me as more accurate than general population info or waiting until a few short months before the school year starts– or at least a point of comparison.

  4. Because of our charter system status, there are no “caps” on class size, Not that I’m recommending 23+ kids per K class. Also, when we moved into the WP district 7 years ago and attempted to register our child for K in June, we were told she’d have to go to OAK. That would have been fine with us too. All CSD K-3 schools are high quality. Our child did end up getting in at WP in just a few weeks time.

  5. Maybe if we eliminated tuition students there would be room for all the taxpayers to send their children to the appropriate school.

    1. That’s my question – are there tuition kids in kindergarten at Oakhurst? If so, they should be moved to Winona Park.

    1. One reason they would have tuition students is that to get title to the school property from the City Commission, CSD had to offer free tuition to City Hall employees. Yes, only ten slots but still ten slots and a benefit not afforded anywhere else in Georgia by a municipality.

      1. CSD has had tuition students for years and years.Don’t most school districts allow tuition students?. I remember parents from Avondale Estates and unicorporated DeKalb back 20 plus years ago saying they didn’t worry about schools in their areas because they could pay tuition in Decatur.

        1. “School Districts” – yes, tuition students are allowed throughout ALL the Georgia Public Schools. But these tuition students are not paying their tuition save through their parent’s employment through a parallel local government. It is an employment expense being paid for out of a different entity’s budget. In other words your school tax dollars are paying for sanitation worker benefits.

          1. I don’t see anything wrong with that, Barry White. It’s ten slots.

            Out of district tuition kids have been given preference at Okahurst in the past- or at least attempts were made; it happened four years ago at Oakhurst when a couple of parents who relocated here in the summer of 2007 were actually told that their children would be “bussed” to WP because the principle already had a relationship with the tuition families. I heard about the incident from one of the parents. The children ended up at Oakhurst, but the fact that the principle felt comfortable enough to attempt to deny admission to a family because of out of district families has bothered me for years.

            Ten slots reserved for people who help make our community run don’t bother me. I am sure those kids get sent where ever there is room.

            1. You don’t see anything wrong with the ten slots and I do. We disagree on an issue of what is an appropriate use of governmental dollars based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principals. These are restricted funds, by GAAP definition, and are being misappropriated accordingly. Ten slots is not a material amount given the enrollment of CSD; but materiality is not the issue. It is the appropriate drawing of public tax dollars to a purpose contrary to what they are supposed to how they are spent. The benefit goes to City Hall employees and therefore the truse cost of those employees and all of their benefits ought to be factored into the City Commission’s budget NOT the School Board’s.

              However, given these discussions tend to provoke someone in the Commentariat to say we should “re-open Westchester”, there does seem to be a need to fully explore all of the factors creating whatever passes for the enrollment numbers, be it baby strollers or employee benefits. The schools are supposed to be run for the purpose of educating the children of Decatur taxpayers not for providing perquisites for adults.

              1. By the way, I don’t object to the 10 slots, but am not married to the idea either. Now that you put all that out there, I wonder why the CSD administration could approve such a thing without a ballot initiative. Anyone more steeped in the codes know?

  6. can understand the annoyance with your child being unable to go to a school 100 yards from your own home, however, the elementary schools are K-3, so it seems sort of impossible to zone precisely for all four grades, no?

    I don’t understand what you mean by “zone precisely” in this sentence. It seems reasonable to expect that your child will be able to attend the elementary school for which you are zoned for all four years. I would not want—and do not expect—my daughter to go to one elementary for K, perhaps a different one for first grade, then maybe back again for second grade, based on demographic shifts. If we are in that kind of fix, it’s seems almost a crisis point, to me.

    That being said, I do wonder about someone registering in May when registration began in February. I don’t have a problem when kids whose parents register them that late in the year being sent where there is space, with the understanding they would be able to attend the school they are zoned for the following and later years. So, if you move into a district late in the year, you may have to go to another elementary, but kids would not arbitrarily get sent out of zone because the district miscalculated the number of classes they would need at that level.

    1. I seem to be the only one who thinks this, so maybe I’m completely off-base.

      But if I’m tasked with redistricting schools, I bet it’s going to be hard enough to take into account stuff like existing neighborhood lines and children that need to switch schools three years running, without also making sure that I don’t have too many Kindergarten and too few 3rd grade in any given zone. When you zone a street you take the tikes and the other grades all at once. We don’t zone by grade last I checked. Overflow in some grades seems inevitable – and in fact is probably a more efficient option – in a full-up system like ours.

      Dare I say it, but adding another class at Oakhurst when there’s room at neighboring school seems like a waste of money. We all are for more efficient bus routes, why not efficient classrooms?

      1. You are right to a point but CSD seems to be adding space in the classroom by increasing class size, so it isn’t really a fair comparison. A Kindergarten class of 23 is large. If they have 4 classes of 23 (92) at Oakhurst and move 8 to WP, even though adding a teacher is more costly, it would be better for students if they kept the 100 at Oakhurst and had 5 classes of 20. But, it sounds like they can’t do that because they don’t have the classroom space.

      2. Correct, DM.

        The only way to keep these kinds of scenarios from happening is to have a single elementary school for the entire city (kids would not be shuffled out of their district due to capacity issues). Does anyone want that? Counterintuitively, everyone seems to think this is evidence that we need more elementary schools (Westchester), which would really just exacerbate the situation.

      3. DM I am with you -efficiency in classrooms, too. No need to spend the money to open another class – certainly not another school – when spaces are available in other buildings.

        Interesting that so many are commenting on the “large” class of 23. Back before the re configuration and before Roy Barnes cut class sizes by State law, the CSD size limit in Kindergarten was 28 children . Not saying it was the best thing but all those great kids who just graduated last week appear to have survived it.

            1. Uh, those rankings are pretty pointless. Any ranking that puts Berkmar near the top does not mean much to me.

              1. Speaking of absurd arguments.

                On the one hand I’ve got a systematic ranking based on measurable facts.

                And on the other hand I’ve got your reply.

          1. Sorry CSD Mom – I guess the sarcasm went over your head.

            Let me be more direct. There is a choice to be made between larger class sizes at some grade levels and shifting students to open seats in other schools. The money needed to open an extra class will mean something else cut from the already tight budget or increased taxes . Neither is fair to accommodate a small number of students.

            As I pointed out above , at one time CSD regularly had 28 students in Kindergarten. Would it be so terrible to have a few classes at Oakhurst with 24 or 25 students in order to preserve the community group ? If it would be terrible then the late registering children should be moved to other open spots at neighboring . If all registered at the same time , first ask families to volunteer to shift then hold a lottery to determine which students fill the available spaces.

            I don’t understand those who are down on this administration and seem to be pining for the good old days when Westchester was open and we had K-5 schools .

            Things were worse for CSD in the K-5 configuration because there was only one, at most 2, classes per school at each grade level . One or two new families moving in could over enroll several grade levels.

            Every summer there was anxiety about how all the kids would fit in a given school. Well,not all schools – only Westchester, Clairemont Winnona and sometimes Glennwood. Open spaces that no one would take at College Heights , 5th Ave and Oakhurst were part of the reason for the reorganization.

            In the mid – late 90’s , we had to mail postcards on ( but not before) Aug 1 to be sure our kids would be registered at their home school. The was no spring registration . It was get that post card in or you might not have a spot. Many families mailed several postcards from different mailboxes just in case one got lost in the mail. The dirty little secret was that the parents in public housing were the least likely to do this postcard routine and thus their kids were the ones most often shifted to the open spaces at other schools. ( talk to a parent whose children attended Glennwood during that time and I bet you get an ear full on this subject).

            I’ve been here involved with and observing CSD for almost 30 years. I believe this administration is doing a better job – with a fairer more ,open process – than any of the past administrations I’ve seen.

            1. Thank you Fifi. Great background and a good explanation about how schools with fewer classes per grade create less flexibility and less opportunity for keeping children enrolled at schools closest to their home.

              1. Excess capacity can be built into any configuration. However, one of the key advantages touted by the administration during the 2004 reconfiguration was the absorption of excess capacity in the K-5 schools. Four classes across two schools could be consolidated into 3 classes in 1 school. It was one of the ways that the new arrangement was supposed to save money. Where it begins to rub according to the literature on school size is that “for both research and real-world action, enrollment per grade is a better metric of size than total enrollment.” Howley, , at 3.5 (chapter 3 in a book, “Small Schools”) So, whatever advantages you achieve with four classes per grades, you begin to create problems as the number of classes per grade gets bigger. This literature suggests that adding a 3rd class per grade in a K-5 school does less violence to the benefits of small schools than adding a 5th or 6th class to a shorter grade span school with the same number of kids. I hope we add studying these issues to the long term things to consider on student population projections and school grade configuration.

            2. I only observed one administration before this one and there’s a world of difference, no question about it. Basic competence, communication, and even reality testing seemed absent from the previous administration. At that time, given that several schools seemed to be thriving, my best guess was (and is) that it was exceptionally strong principal leadership that kept the system strong. I don’t find intelligent, well-intentioned, civil critique or suggestions for improvement to be incompatible with an appreciation for what we have now compared to what we had and compared to some of the surrounding school districts. A blog is a blog. People feel free to speak up in ways they feel they don’t get a chance otherwise. DM keeps the discourse civil. I’m positive that many of those who critique CSD or suggest improvements on this blog also write thank you notes, send emails with positive feedback, give thank you gifts to teachers and staff, volunteer up the wahzoo, donate to the Decatur Education Foundation, buy classroom supplies, send in extra funds for field trips to cover the costs of families who forget or cannot pay, chaperone, participate on the PTO, SLTs, and/or work groups, and vote with our feet by staying in CSD unless a child’s special need sends us elsewhere. We are appreciative and show our appreciation to CSD but we are also thinking, involved citizens and parents who want to share concerns and information; it’s the latter role that shows up on this blog.

  7. They added a Kindergarten class to Clairemont one year when the parents objected to large class sizes…

    First, find out if there is a classroom that is available to house a 5th – Kindergarten class. If there is, then, move toward lobbying for that 5th Kindergarten class.

  8. Back to Sarah’s point…
    While all of our children get cramped, shuffled, and packed like sardines in a school several miles away, the CSD Administration gets luxurious offices in a renovated to school, Westchester. I understand why the redistricting was done in 2003, but now is the time to admit the mistake of ever closing and open back up the school. The fact that we have a large, nice school building being used only for administration purposes, while we also debate the issue of overcrowding and growth in our schools is ridiculous. The cheapest, arguably easiest solution would be to open Westchester back up. No more renovating and redistricting- just open up the school. It’s about time the Board turns against the “Dr.” and finally puts the students and their families before the Administration’s.

    1. You lost me at “luxurious.” I can say without a doubt that, anytime I pay an up-charge for luxury, it sure as hell better not come with cinder block walls.

      Your point is that the school should be put back into use as a school, which may be a perfectly valid point. You’d fare better without the us-against-them, chillin’ on the taxpayer’s dime hyperbole.

      1. Westchester may not be luxurious, but it’s pretty darn nice. With bathrooms between every two rooms for the little kids, all rooms with windows, auditorium, field for running around…probably the only thing to do might be to revamp the playground since they’re probably getting old.
        I still think that K-5 schools makes the math projection easier and results in less shuffling of kids…more stable environment allowing and encouraging more parent involvement. Never had multiple kids in multiple schools, but I can only imagine that it would wear parents thin.

        1. Dropping kids off at multiple schools ain’t tough in a city only 4 square miles.

            1. If I were in this man’s situation, I could make it from Oakhurst Elementary to Winonna in less than 6-7 minutes. Why is that so tough? Even if one had one kid at CHECLC and one at Clairemont, you’re talking 15 minutes tops, and that’s with morning traffic.

              1. Ok writerchad, I give up. What is your new photo? Curiosity got the better of me and I even tried to magnify it. But on my (crummy) computer, it looks like someone it sitting on top of a large propane tank looking out over the ocean. Am I close? 🙂

                1. Ha! I like that. But not even close.
                  It’s a 1979 Vespa I use to commute from Decatur to Dunwoody. It’s sitting in front my blue glass mirrored office building. (A most ubiquitous sight in Atlanta. What’s with the love for blue mirrored glass?)
                  Yeah, I really am that cool. That’s why Nellie loves me.

              2. I am definitely sending my kids to your place, because nothing is more insane that in the mornings in my house when we had multiple elementary-aged kids. (breakfast, missing clothes, missing shoes, lost books, checks for field trips and lunch, book bags gone missing, permission forms to complete, spilled drinks forcing re-dressing, to say nothing of fighting kids) Going to different schools would be a pretty big tax on a period of the day where every second is precious. The bigger problem, though, is not the mornings. Some mornings, I bet you’re right and it won’t be too bad. The bigger problem is covering two different facilities for all of the parent support stuff — PTAs, room parent help, field trip stuff, parties, and all of the stuff, some casual and some formalized, that connects you to a school.

          1. “Dropping kids off at multiple schools ain’t tough in a city only 4 square miles.”

            It is highly likely that the kindergarten child who enrolls at Winnona Park ES will qualify for bus service from her home “100 yards” from Oakhurst ES since the two schools are about 1.7 miles apart.

            So what’s the new wrinkle in the bus service? Who made the statement recently that bus service for K-3 is no longer needed with the opening of a 5th school? Wasn’t that a budgeting consideration went deciding start times?

            RE: moving to K-5 neighborhood schools and planning for enrollment
            The fewer classes available in a building at a grade level the more challenging it is to have the correct number of “seats.” Smaller schools bring more challenges in this regard so K-5’s will only add the same problem to the 4th & 5th grades.

            I still think it’s a shame to turn away a neighborhood child or family and send them to another school with all the inconveniences that can add strain to the family. NO tuition or courtesy student should take a “seat” away from a child who lives in the school zone.

            CSD goes to great lengths to verify residency and should be just as careful with protecting this family’s need to send both children to the same K-3 school within walking, not busing distance from their home.

  9. Wow. My sense of shock and disappointment that this is still going on, albeit to a different group of children, is greater than my desire to say “Told you so!”

  10. Once Westchester inevitably opens, where should CSD Administration be located, trailers?

    1. Isn’t there a huge space in the middle of Oakhurst Village? Or did the Dollar Store grab it? Since the majority of schools will still be on the Southside even if Westchester re-opens, maybe that would be a good location for Central Office. Good coffee, good walking to most of the schools, good music and beer after work, and there would finally be a school in every quadrant again. BUT, what will happen when the current tidal wave of children hits Fifth Avenue and it isn’t big enough for all the city’s 4th and 5th graders? It’s slightly under capacity next year but not for long. And, judging from the babies and strollers EVERYWHERE–not just downtown, but on every street, at every party, in every church nursery, I think there’s a tsunami of babies behind the tidal wave of kindergarteners. Build another 4/5 Academy? Can the current Fifth Avenue be increased in size? My guess is that the 4/5 concept will be out of fashion by then and it will seem logical again to do K-5 or even preK-5. It’ll have a new name–something like the Integrated Multi-age Baccalaureate Model. Very cutting edge, evidence-based, using differentiated instruction, and good on resumes….

      1. Love it!
        The acronymn sounds so Dr Strangelove – the IMaBM or “I’m a bomb” program. Genius!

  11. Well, there’s a bunch of folks on Hill Street that somehow have been told to go to Oakhurst even though they are zoned for Winnona. They don’t have waivers, or rising third graders. Maybe they should take a look at that. It might free up a couple of Oakhurst kindergarten spots.

  12. offering some facts to help this discussion:

    1. As the Reconfiguration Committee so aptly put it a few years ago: “Redistricting is tricky in Decatur because the schools are just in the wrong places.” Glennwood and Clairemont are very close together. What that does is affect the other zones. Glennwood doesn’t reach too far into “Winnona territory” because that would cause Winnona to reach more toward Oakhurst. One of the goals Dr. Edwards was hopeful for in this reconfiguration was to remove as many trailers as possible. The plan is to remove the one trailer at Clairemont, one at Winnona Park. and the four at Glennwood. Some of these will be removed this summer, others will stay until the enrollment stabilizes within the first 20 days of school. When the Board granted permission for some rising third graders to remain at their current K-3 school, a trailer needed to stay at both Oakhurst and WInnona Park.
    2. Paying tuition was being accepted at Glennwood Elementary for next year in order to fill up some classrooms that were so low they were actually below the state funding formula. Tuition brings necessary revenue that helps us balance our budget.
    3. The Glennwood attendance zone is not currently full of K-3 age children. So, opening Westchester for the 11-12 school year could solve a single class problem at Oakhurst, but would add a considerable tax burden for citizens. However, the Westchester building will certainly be considered in August 2011 as the 2012-2013 enrollment prediction work continues
    4. Oakhurst will use all of their classroom space next year.
    5. Class size caps are not related to our charter. The State Board of Education removed all class size limits last year for every Georgia district.

    Thomas at (you guessed it) Westchester

    1. Your argument supports one of the reasons the consultants recommended the closing of Clairemont in 2004; the close proximity of Glennwood and Clairemont.

      1. Yup, Clairemont was quainter, had Expeditionary Learning, and had more political support but Westchester made more much sense logistically. But in the end, Clairemont lost true Expeditionary Learning and some of its ardent supporters then defected to private school. Meanwhile, schools like Fifth Avenue (whose community was still waiting for a promised renovation and reopening) and College Heights didn’t have any strong advocates and those communities lost out altogether, although at least the ECLC was developed there. Glennwood got the 4/5 but many mourned the loss of a neighborhood school. So a lot of good came out of the renovation and Oakhurst benefited big-time but it was a big-time loss for the Westchester area and a deterioration in quality at Clairemont, both of whom were the homes of the Decatur Housing Authority children. Now it looks like even a few repercussions are reaching Oakhurst with some of the community moved to Winnona Park, large kindergarten classes (which NEVER used to be bigger than 20 children; hopefully they still get a full-time parapro plus certified teacher), and maybe trailers.

        1. Karass –were you a parent at Clairemont during 2004? If not, your comments about what happened or did not happened are just true speculation…..
          “But in the end, Clairemont lost true Expeditionary Learning and some of its ardent supporters then defected to private school. ”
          I was a parent there at that time and to my recollection only ONE family –who by the way could in no way be the foundation of Expeditionary Learning…went to private school after the 2004 decisions. Really? Please refrain from speculation unless you have all the facts.

          1. I have three families in mind, off the top of my head, at least two of whom spoke up at the public comment sessions of 2003-2004, and all of whom have been adamant that Expeditionary Learning pre-reconfiguration was a completely different program from what Clairemont ended up with. If I went through an old Clairemont phone directory, I would come up with more.

            But my bigger point is that there’s been unintended consequences from the original reconfiguration, including the logistics of having no elementary school located in a whole quadrant of the city–the northwest. It affected the northside (Clairemont and Glennwood) and resulted in adding on to Clairemont, then adding trailers to Clairemont and Glennwood, and then another reconfiguration, but now it’s even affecting the westside (Oakhurst), first through trailers and now by turning away kindergartners (whose fault it isn’t if their parents registered late whether because of a recent move or forgetfulness). That’s not to take away from the benefits of the reconfiguration, but many of us believe that, if that original reconfiguration had been done better, based on listening to the community about the growth in young families, the effects of gentrification (Oakhurst families spoke up during public comments), and considering other options, we would be having less repercussions now. Emotion, blame, and political connections played too large a role.

          1. Yeah, I woke up in the middle of the night and realized that I’d fallen asleep without putting the materials in the crockpot for the stew I was planning. And since I was awake already and you have already established that I am not allowed to skip any posts about CSD……

  13. Winnona Park Stud can’t imagine WPES having capacity anytime soon, least ways not enough to remove Ye Olde Cottages of Instruction in the Arts, Sciences, and Moral Advancement. Last school year, there were 5 kids on Winnona Park Stud’s street (Heatherdown) enrolled, next year there will be 9, year after next at least 12. After that, it’ll be time for CSD to invoke the one family-one child clause buried in its charter.

  14. Winnona Park Stud should have attached disclaimers to the observation just offered re its anecdotal nature, small sample from which no meaningful conclusions can be drawn, personal responsibility for the explosive growth in the number of young children now residing on Heatherdown, etc.

  15. “Stud”, I’m a bit slow here. So, you’re the stallion not wanting to take credit for the explosive growth of strollers on Heatherdown?

  16. 23 K students in a class??? You are a charter system with waivers! Why be a charter if you are not using any flexibility ?? CSD please be careful and stay an excellent school system – large class sizes are not beneficial for many reasons… A lot of people out there are paying high tax dollars to not have 23 kids in their child’s class!!

    1. My kid went to Paideia in the early 90’s. There were 28 lids in his Kindergarten class. Just sayin’.

      1. But they had two teachers in the class, right? I believe that’s the set-up they have now.

  17. I don’t and won’t have kids, but it seems to me that CSD does not want to admit fault and reopen westchester. the k-3 idea seems ridiculous to me, granted I went to a k-5 school and to me that seems like the best idea but who knows, I’m just a childless taxpayer paying for CSD to use an entire school as an office.

  18. Yes there was a lot of information about the need to register early….

    But I myself am concerned that we seem so at the “edge” that parents who didn’t fill out paperwork early enough are out of luck at the school down the block.

    I know other grades and other schools are FULL too and if you bought a house today down the block from the school – depending on the grade you couldn’t send your kid there. With early enough registration they can adjust the tuition students surely. I have heard of people trying to move into the area but disappointed by now ability to attend the neighborhood school. Sure they are all great but it would be a bit sad to walk the other direction of every other kid son your block. And would you switch again next year? With short grade spans one wants to minimize shifting around.

    But I think the bottom line take away needs to be that if our capacity is this sensitive we have issues. I think CSD needs to be developing methodologies to be tracking population shifts ongoing not just when in crisis. A push toward early registration was one of those.

  19. School board elections this fall. They are great people but they are not willing to stand up to the endless stream of policies that benefit resumes but hurt students. The board members need to show some moxie or be ready for replacement…. even though I like each one of them a great deal. Again, they are lovely people and very dedicated, but they have been at their jobs too long and have too much baggage from the last reconfiguration. We love them but really need new blood. Some have been on the board for a decade.

    Frankly, this is really getting ridiculous. A shift to five or six K-5s would do wonders for parent involvement and academic achievement. We have so many problems with the achievement gap that seem to be accentuated at Glennwood (soon to be 5th Avenue). With our nutty non-contiguous calendars and our indecipherable grading systems… seems like the least we could do is offer or struggling kids some consistency in peers and school experience in their early years by allowing them to stay in the safety of their home schools until they are our of early childhood..

    K-3 and 4/5 are no longer needed since all of our schools are now pretty much equally diverse. It served a good purpose, but is no longer necessary to insure diversity.

    1. Re Board elections: I’m in favor of always having challengers as well as incumbents. Regardless of who wins, it brings the issues out in the open, challenges the incumbents to be active members vs. rest on their past laurels, and prevents Board “groupthink”. But folks are gonig to have to urge good candidates to run. There were some thoughtful, energetic, dedicated challengers in the past election who did remarkably well as new candidates in a community that, despite its liberal leanings, is pretty conservative about political change. I hope similar folks will be interested this time. I believe that only two positions are open–one on the northside and one on the southside.

    1. No. It seemed like this story was beginning to get around and I was looking for some clarity. I wanted to understand how we were supposed to think that CSD could zone for individual grades as well as schools. Unfortunately only one person attempted to answer my question.

      1. Did you really think anyone would directly answer you ;). Your innocence is refreshing.

        Just based on nothing whatsoever other than anecdotal evidence, it seems to my little brain that the k-5 model allowed more flexibility in “zoning for grades” than 4-5 academy model which is more static in terms of the way facilities may be utilized. The other way would be some sort of annual survey of residents and their children, maybe through an insert in property tax bills.which may not be as difficult as it sounds but many might object to data collection. Thoughts?

        1. That’s been my mantra for years. Ask. Do a survey. Surveys are easy to administer now. They yield imperfect data but less imperfect than Board members announcing “I got a phone call from two parents who said…..”

  20. It really is way pass time to admit that the current CSD administrator and her very expensive consultants simply do not have a clue how to plan and manage facilities. This is a small town school system. 18,000 people live in four square miles. It should not be this hard. If that means losing the 4-5 model, which about as many people hate as support, so be it. But two reconfigurations and a school remodeling in five years is nuts. I understand the Westchester/admin building use- it’s cheaper than renting space and I don’t think in the long run that was a poor decision. But come on. This has gotten ridiculous. It’s a facilities management issue and it’s time to separate that issue from the administration’s work towards quality curriculum and education.

      1. Me too! We need representation on the Board of younger families. A problem for a long time has been that few of the Board members have had young children so they are not current on the issues facing families with that age group. And now none of them do. That’s a natural phenomenon–the first year or so that a family is in a school system, they are still learning about public schools and are all gaga about how wonderful their preK and kindergarten teachers are. It takes a few years before the more systemic issues become clear and one wants to get involved. So by the time one is knowledgeable and passionate enough to run for School Board, one’s oldest child may already be half-way through CSD! That’s one reason I loved Garrett Goebbel as a candidate last year–he had a middle schooler who had been to Glennwood plus two Clairemonters, so was familiar with half of the K-12 schools, but still had a two year old who would be benefitting or suffering from whatever decisions were made for a long time! It’s easy for Board members without only older children to dismiss parent issues with “Been there, done that”, “It’s always been that way”, “I’ve heard that complaint for years”, “We had to deal with that too”, etc.

        So run Nelliebelle or Nelliebelle look-alikes!

    1. Against my own promises not to wade into any more of these CSD molehill issues…

      “This is a small town school system. 18,000 people live in four square miles. It should not be this hard. ”

      It is more difficult to allocate facilities precisely BECAUSE this is a small town school system. We don’t have 60,000 students in this system, and thus the ability to quickly scale or rebalance geographically. We don’t have the scale to absorb a 10% facility “buffer” in place at our schools, in order to deal with year-to-year fluctuations in neighborhood enrollments. And our administration (thankfully) doesn’t have the huge monolithic bureaucracy to impose facilities decisions without major, unheard of levels of public input in the process.

      In all matters related to CSD, it is vitally important to remember that you cannot please all of the people all of the time. This school system is WILDLY successful, which is a major reason why enrollment is skyrocketing. Most people I know are VERY happy to send their kids to CSD, both on its own merits and relative to the alternatives. A couple customers here and there are going to be dissatisfied – that’s life in any business or service. But step outside our small town boundaries and you’ll see a lot more problems and dissatisfaction surrounding us.

      I say this as someone who doesn’t know anyone on the school board or in the administration personally. But from what I can tell, they are doing a pretty good job. The growth in enrollment is strong, market-based evidence of this. The school board keeps winning elections, despite a couple of reconfigurations and curriculum changes. And of course the test scores reflect a topnotch school system.

      1. I disagree actually. There are thousands more small town and rural school systems than there are systems with 60,000 students.

        Student scores may be good, especially for Georgia, but the system is not “wildly successful” from an operations standpoint. In the private sector, Phyllis Edwards would have lost her job after the first reconfiguration failed. I don’t see what is wrong with admitting that and working to fix it. I have a funny feeling many of you would feel very differently in Caleb’s shoes or if the school experience wasn’t working for you in a practical, everyday way, no matter how good the scores.

        Like I said, management failures should be separated from the academics and dealt with. I don’t advocate firing Phyllis Edwards by any means. But I do advocate isolating the issues and dealing with them in an open way. All taxpayers are affected by the operations mistakes and they should be honestly addressed.

        1. “In the private sector, Phyllis Edwards would have lost her job after the first reconfiguration failed.”

          The first reconfiguration failed?

          When I read these kinds of comments, I’m reminded why I usually try to stay out of the CSD bashing threads. I can’t be respectful in my response, so I will leave you and your opinions alone.

          1. The first reconfiguration failed. I don’t understand how it can be called a success when 1) it was based on data provided by a consultant that CSD admits was faulty and mis-projected enrollment substantially and 2) five years later, CSD had to build a new school. Again, from an operations standpoint, it failed. Nothing to do with the quality of the the instruction or the education.

            1. The 2004 reconfiguration was about much more than simply redistributing enrollment across facilities. A flaw in that aspect of it does not mean, IMO, that the whole thing has been a failure and doesn’t even mean it’s been an operations failure. Even if one accepts “operations failure,” a case could be made that it was still worthwhile for the benefits that have accrued. It’s possible the board would have made different decisions, given different demographic forecasts. But then again, maybe not. Maybe they would have opted for the overall educational improvements we’ve seen come about, and accepted compromises on operations.

              BTW, does anybody else find it ironic that on the same day, comments in one thread bemoan not using Westchester to house little kids while on another thread we’re reminded of the dangerous traffic conditions on that stretch of Scott Boulevard?

              1. One more time… in 25 years in the Westchester neighborhood, and with children at Westchester when it closed, never once in our experience was there any traffic incident involving Westchester school children in “…the dangerous traffic conditions on that stretch of Scott Boulevard…” Just haven’t seen it happen. Do you have statistics to support your insinuation?

                The speed limit is the same during school commuting hours at every school in the system – 25 miles per hour. The regular speed limit on Scott is 40, only five miles above Clairemont, Howard, Commerce, etc.

                Using that as a reason not to use Westchester as a school is just another excuse in a long line of them. Unfortunately there are several children who have been injured by vehicles at other schools in the system.

                Can you please give it a rest?

                1. Not insinuating anything, just noting what I see as a point of collective inconsistency.

          2. BTW, I was not trying to bait you, TeeRuss. You obviously support the school system 100%, which is great. I disgaree about certain parts of how things are run, but that’s me and I how I look at things. I don’t think you should stay out of these discussions. In fact, your experiences are valuable, especially for newer CSD parents like me who are still forming opinions. I freely admit I feel like the system has flaws in operations, but I am willing to listen to people who don’t and why they feel that way. In fact, I’d like to hear your opinion on why you think the reconfiguration worked- in a nice way, of course!!

            1. I’d love to hear opinions from veteran teachers, those that have taught in the system under the old and current configuration.

            2. OK, here goes – the reconfiguration was a massive, unquestionable, smashing success. The very results you deem as the rationale for failure are in fact the evidence of its success.

              Enrollment projections were exceeded because it attracted tons of new customers into the system, and now we have a wave of kids who were not even born when the reconfig was planned. This DM post we’re commenting on is about rising kindergarteners who were born in 2006 and who are overwhelming Oakhurst – i.e. kids who could not have been forecasted by consultants or the board. The kids moving into 5th ave next year were around 2 years old when enrollment projections were made – also an impossibly difficult projection to make.

              As a long term intowner who moved my 3 young children into the Oakhurst school district in 2005, I can tell you from personal experience what a success the reconfiguration has been. It transformed a whole section of town that would have gentrified at a much slower pace without it. I know tons of others from intown neighborhoods who came to Oakhurst because of the huge opportunity it suddenly provided – affordable intown living with high quality schools. Something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Metro Atlanta.

              Lastly, I’m not 100% in favor of the school board or system. I just seem that way when I post amongst a dozen or so of the same high-frequency complainers who seem to lack any perspective or maturity whatsoever.

              There go my manners. I’m out.

              1. Hmmmmm. Thanks for mostly controlling yourself :). In a way, that makes sense. I guess then the real test will be whether this lastest reconfiguration works/is flexible enough for the future….

                I think I am in a weird position because I have been in Decatur mostly since 1989 and in Oakhurst since 1998. BUT I didn’t have kids until four years ago, so I am playing a lot of catch-up with school issues I should have been aware of since I started paying property tax and considering kids.

                I still think the school system needs a professional-level operations manager rather than relying on consultants. Nonprofits often have such a position, and it really makes all the difference. The education professionals can educate and the facilities people can…. facilitate?

              2. There are some who might disagree with just about every point you make. I’m not sure how re-hashing those helps, but folks who are new to the area should understand that, during the 2004 reconfiguration debate, all of the school population growth trends– in south and north Decatur — were well underway already. That evidence was discounted by the board, but turned out to be correct. Also, for someone who professes the need to be courteous, your “smashing success” was a fairly insensitive thing to say. Would you say it has been a “smashing success” for the Westchester families? Karass’ comments entered at 3:09 am (!) hit the nail on the head: there are no doubt many benefits to the reconfiguration, but there are substantial costs and losses. There is no hard evidence whatsoever– as opposed to anecdotal evidence — that the reconfiguration made any difference pedagogically or behaviorally. We had an excellent school system before the reconfiguration and we have a good one now.
                The question becomes, though, where do you go from here? What model of grade configuration gives us the most flexibility for population growth and shifts? (The good and the bad of schools with longer grade spans is that they have more excess room. That can be more costly, but provides more cushion to absorb more ebbs and flows in student population.) What model is most likely to diminish the controlling role that bus schedules play versus pedagogical research? (The presence of the 2-grade school drives our bus needs. One benefit of K-5 would be a dramatic decline in the need for those buses – and a corresponding drop in the control those buses exert.) What system is best at stimulating parental involvement? (The research examined in the 2004 reconfiguration showed that longer grade spans better induce parental involvement. The parents have longer to learn their school and reap the reward of investing in it.) What grade configuration is best for at-risk children? (Research says longer grade spans with more consistent principal oversight and fewer school-to-school transitions is especially helpful for at risk kids.) If one configuration handles those issues better than another, but costs more, is it worth it? (K-5 is more costly according to the reconfiguration committee.) My only suggestion is to measure that cost in terms of Happy Meals per family per week. Is it worth 1.5 Happy Meals per week per family to have a configuration that best accommodates those principles? How about 3 Happy Meals per week? Needless to say, there’s no right or wrong answer. I just think putting the cost in terms of Happy Meals helps keep it in perspective. The good news is that the wonderful renovation at 5th Avenue gives us some flexibility down the road to consider all of these options.

                1. “–all of the school population growth trends– in south and north Decatur — were well underway already. That evidence was discounted by the board”
                  According to the data the board had in hand, those trends were not as clear or concrete as they now appear in hindsight. In any case, were they discounted by the board, or simply de-prioritized because other issues were on the table?

                  “Would you say it has been a “smashing success” for the Westchester families?”
                  — The salient question is not whether it has been a success for specific families and/or specific enclaves within the city of Decatur, but whether more children throughout the system are better off than they were before. I contend that the present configuration has resulted in more benefit for more children across the system, even if it produced some unhappiness and frustration for Westchester parents who understandably hated to see their nearest school closed. (And for WP parents, including yourself, who wanted their kids to stay at WPES through 5th grade instead of traipsing all the way to Glennwood at 4th grade). I have seen or heard no evidence that the reconfig cost any child academically, and have heard ample anecdotal endorsement of the academic and social benefits.

                  We can argue about buses ’til the cows come home, sleep, wake up and leave again. Unless you favor putting all ages on the same bus, I’m not interested in that conversation. (No, I’m not a parent, but I hold those of you who are, responsible for your kids’ behavior. If you think 12-year olds are a danger to 5 year-olds, then you must not plan to bring up your 5-year old very well.)

                  Let’s talk about the old system, where kids were nestled in very small “neighborhood” schools through 5th grade (I use quotation marks because I think the old K-5 districts were too small to be called ‘neighborhoods’) , then slung together in Renfroe at 6th grade. Just when they’re starting to be crazed by turning 11 or 12, they get knocked together into a huge school–relative to the little cocoons they’ve been attending since they were 5, where there might be only three dozen or so kids in their whole grade (I can’t recall exact numbers, but do remember there were some very small grades)–and expected to thrive? While we are all concerned with academics, for the kids at that age, it’s all about the social dynamics. The school-based cliques that have formed by 5th grade don’t easily blend at that point — I have this on the good authority of parents who lived it, and were thrilled to see the 4-5 academy model come in.

                  Then there’s the fact that in the old K-5 model, we had classrooms below the state funding formula, which as I understand it, meant that we were forfeiting state dollars intended for instruction, because we clung to a configuration that kept many tiny classes scattered across town. C’mon….isn’t it worth a traveling a few hundred extra yards (or even another mile) to a different building, if it means wringing every dollar we can from the state?

                  “What system is best at stimulating parental involvement?”
                  OK, I am very tired of hearing the parental involvement argument. Decatur is not a town where the majority of parents need stimulation to get involved. Those who are not, probably won’t be– they’re working multiple jobs and/or just don’t have the wherewithal, for whatever reason. In any case, it’s not like your kids are suddenly going to 4th grade in some strange territory far from home. Parents need to get their heads around the fact that they have bought into a system, not a particular little school. Getting involved is a choice. Why isn’t the fact that your child goes to school there enough of a reason? Am I seriously meant to believe that a parent will choose NOT to get involved in their child’s school because it’s a different building than where their child went last year? Seems to me there’s value in pulling the kids–and parents–together earlier rather than later, in terms of building community across Decatur.

                  That said, I also think CSD should take any opportunity to take measures or establish protocols that encourage parents to bond with the system, instead of bonding with their particular school. As a charter system, are there options in that regard, e.g., in setting up budgets so that PTA’s can function jointly instead of in competition?

                  I’m out of gas.

                  1. Smalltowngal-

                    I suspect I won’t convince you that any of your positions might be off. So, this is for other or new folks to these issues.

                    Re: Population projections: data with hard counts of infants and toddlers were provided that contradicted the estimates provided by the consultants in 2004. It was HARD data, and it was ignored because it did not fit what they wanted to hear. Just as importantly, we showed how sensitive the feasibility of the reconfiguration was to those population projections. Just a slight change even in the consultants numbers rendered Glennwood (and every other school) too small to serve as the 2-grade school. (They denied there would need to be trailers during the discussion.) Making a decision that relied so heavily upon the accuracy of estimates that carried a huge standard deviation seemed injudicious (as Law Piggy might say).

                    Your “greater good” argument also does not fly. The at-risk kids whose welfare was the cover for those with other agendas are harmed, not helped, by shorter grade span schools and more transitions. There was nothing in the literature to contradict that. Moreover, there is nothing to back up claims that somehow we “were all lifted.” There’s just no data. There was a smart, well carried out little coup. For those of you who were not here, it was Clairemont, not Westchester, that was initially targeted for closing. As a result, Westchester and Clairemont were pitted against each other. Once Clairemont won the preliminary vote, they shut the hell up about how unnecessary any closing was, lest the worm turn back on them. All the while, folks elsewhere sat on their hands in the great tradition lamented by Pastor Niemuller. As you know since I use my name in these posts, I had no kids at risk and spoke in favor of Clairemont and Westchester. The board tore this city apart as no elected officials had ever done before. Those divisions have echoed in every political race since then.

                    Regarding the buses, I hope it is not difficult for you to imagine that I was not excited that my 9 or 10 year old daughter had to stand alone in the dark before 7 am for many weeks waiting for her bus to come. Of course, painfully, that bus stop was within sight of Winnona where she could have walked to school an hour later when it was K-5. The buses are not just expensive, they’re not just a source of extra pollution and traffic: they’re not safe. I get up around 5 each morning. So, getting up is not the issue, by the way. As the separate debate on school start times shows, though, cutting into kids’ sleep is not smart.

                    Regarding the adjustments of pre-teens at Renfroe, there is no data to back up that the 2-grade school has done a thing for that. If you want to look at where most research leans to address that almost intractable, national problem, it is longer grade spans (K-7, K-8) at the elementary level. Systems are canning middle schools. Whatever their theoretical advantages, in practice, middle schools are the problem school in a large percentage of systems. In our case, there was a good change when we got a strong principal at Renfroe. He accounted for the improvements. We had children go through Renfroe both before and after the change, by the way.

                    Parent involvement was pooped on by the board chair when she voted for the reconfiguration, as well. (Two years earlier, when her child was still in the elementary schools, she did not feel the same way and voted against a reconfiguration. Go figure.) If you don’t think it’s important, then you absolutely will love short grade span schools. You may, however, want to look at a little more of the literature to see how consistently important parental involvement is found to be. Having a longer time at a school helps encourage that. It’s human nature — why rental cars are not as well cared for — backed up by research. Moreover, parental involvement is a critical determinant of educational outcome especially for at risk kids, the ones we supposedly were most concerned about. We are not talking about helicopter parents. We are talking about the important, not overdone and broad based participation by parents. In a 2-year school, you are either in your first or your last year at a school. It is just harder to get to know the place, the people, the issues and the special way where you can find a niche to help. Moreover, the removal of this particular group — 4th and 5th graders — has a decapitating effect on your leadership among elementary school parents, removing them precisely when they’ve built the background about the school that makes them great classroom or PTA leaders.

                    You don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The absolutely good goal you voiced of broad-based community cohesiveness need not be at the expense of proven, small, neighborhood schools with longer grade spans. Within the school system, you could overlay theme schools and add a 10% lottery to allow folks to attend from outside the school zone whose kids want to attend the science or music or history (or whatever) them school to build cross-pollinization. You also underestimate the effect of the great rec department in which kids and parents from all over join and play together.

                    Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you don’t have important insights. Thanks for giving us those challenging thoughts, even if we disagree.

                  2. Yeah, what smalltowngal said.

                    Very well put, STG. Thanks for focusing also on the social dynamic aspect, which is an aspect easily lost in the discussion of academics.

                  3. STG, your post, and many others in this thread, remind that many people probably have never heard the rationale for the 4-5 academy, and that’s probably why they think it “blows ab initio”.

                    A few years ago I questioned the whole idea until I heard what you just posted – that the positive effects are targetted at critical academic development years (4-5), but also have huge positive impacts on the initial social development years (6-8). The turnaround at Renfroe was at least in part due to the institution of the 4-5 academy system.

                    It would be cool if Decatur Metro could revisit that whole subject, and maybe, possibly, we could for once have a constructive discussion of it.

                    Ha ha – yeah right.

                    1. @TeeRuss,
                      Except that the 4/5 academy is a black hole for those kids who have special needs, and they’re the ones who need the help and consistency and fewer transitions the most.

                    2. Clairemont has been a black hole too for kids with special needs. A general problem in CSD seems to be that kids who are starting to deteriorate because of learning disabilities are often left indefinitely in the “Response to Intervention” (RTI) process until they finish deteriorating to the point that their disability cannot be ignored. It would be a win-win for the system and child if they could receive true remediation early enough to prevent the point of failure that it becomes costly and difficult to regain the child’s true academic potential. Some parents may not realize that the law requires that the school complete an evaluation of their child’s learning deficits within 90 days of the parent request. Unfortunately, some children are going a year and a half or more in the RTI process before getting an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) (or not), with the excuses including summer break, change in schools etc. Meanwhile, the child, is left in limbo without adequate remediation and the legal protection of an IEP. RTI is supposed to be a diagnostic and therapeutic process, not a holding pattern.

                    3. “the same high-frequency complainers who seem to lack any perspective or maturity whatsoever.”

                      I’m not sure how that fosters the constructive discussion you claim to seek.

                      Most of the high-frequency commenter on the subject here, seem to have all their factual ducks in a row on this topic. There are always several anecdotal comments, but the high-frequency “complainers” as you call them, have no shortage of evidence of why they believe the system could be improved.

                      The feeling I get when I read their comments are that they are not satisfied with complacency. Even the best of systems have room for acceleration and improvement which they cite when they discuss this.

                      Everyone has their reasons they feel the way they do, and the discussion is worthy of having.

                      Maybe DM could organize some sort of format to facilitate this, that would focus less on the editorials, and more on the actual facts and numbers in a way that are easy to glance over and digest. Something broken down by year, number of students, dollar amount, spaces available at the time, trailers, and any other random factors and figures worth noting.

                      Whether you disagree with the frequent posters on the subject or not, your description of them as a bunch of immature know-nothings lacking perspective isn’t accurate.

                    4. Karass and CSD Mom — If both Clairemont and the academy have fallen short in serving students with special needs, that suggests CSD has a problem in that specific area–special needs students–rather than an indictment of the K-3/4-5 configuration. Were there no problems or shortfalls at all in that respect, under the old configuration?

                    5. Honestly, I was just chiming in about some special needs kids falling into what CSD Mom calls a black hole and I call a permanent holding pattern. So I was thread-jacking about an issue that has bothered me since my son entered kindergarten and I first got to know the families of children with special needs. And my experience with the issue has only grown from there. Be aware that special needs, or more officially–“Exceptional Student Services”, covers an extremely broad range from the severely intellectually impaired (what used to be called mental retardation) to autism spectrum to fine motor coordination deficits to isolated neurologically-based learning deficits in otherwise high-performing children to gifted services.

                      Re 4/5 Academy: I have always seen pluses and minuses. I don’t think CSD has fully explored and resourced its potential, either with IB or classroom collaboration or student interaction. It’s really just another two years in a different building, albeit with some fantastic (not all, but most) teachers and staff. But the issue relevant to this thread is that I’m not sure if it can survive another tidal wave of increasing enrollment. My understanding is that it will open in August, not full, but at a high level of capacity. We know at least one wave of increased enrollment is coming up soon and those of us being run over strollers lately predict an even larger wave coming after that. So either the brand-new Fifth Avenue facility will have to be massively renovated soon, or several trailers will have to be added there, or we’ll need two 4/5 Academies (and that seems implausible), or we’ll need to return to a model of many K-5 or preK-5 schools.

                  4. “Am I seriously meant to believe that a parent will choose NOT to get involved in their child’s school because it’s a different building than where their child went last year? ”

                    Yes. I am a parent of 4 kids who are in 4 different schools every year for about 15 years, save maybe one or two years when I have two at the high school at the same time. Versus the old configuration, where I would have had multiple kids at the same school for most of those years. Yes, I pick and choose what I can do.

                    So, yes.

                    1. CSD Mom, good point, and a great example of how not being a parent gave me a blind spot. I wasn’t taking into account how your life becomes multi-dimensional as multiple kids move through school. I get it now.

                      On the other hand, I’m not convinced that issue merits the same weight as some others, when considering the relative pros and cons of K-5 versus K-3/4-5.

                2. Tom, my apologies for offending anyone by calling the reconfiguration a smashing success. How insensitive of me. I don’t know what I was thinking.

                  Once again, my offer stands to agree to disagree.

                  1. I hope that does not mean you will stop posting about these issues. You represent a particular demographic that does not always voice its opinion – a relative newcomer (and yes, compared to me, karass, STG, Tom and CSD Mom and some other ancient people you can be considered that ;)) who is mostly satisfied with your experience at CSD. Newer CSD parents like me need all the voices in the mix and old timers who may be a little battle scarred from the old days need the perspective you bring. Maybe I selfishly encourage these discussions (and I think I do tend to be an occasional instigator on them) but I am really curious about how to evaluate my child’s experience and find all of you (whether you are CSD parents or just residents) bring some very valuable insights that really help.

  21. Where are you people when it’s time to vote for school board members? I hope we see a big turnout for the election this year.

  22. Posters above ridiculing this man:

    If all the spots were filled in Feb., even if he registered in March, there still wouldn’t have been enough spots. Whether he registered late or just moved in the district, if there aren’t enough spots for all students due to under budgeting of spaces, it may not have affected him, but it would have affected someone else. People register late, people move in and around, life happens. Focus less on this man, and more on the issue at hand.

    1. Fair enough. I stand reprimanded.

      So to focus on what DM also posted, how does CSD plan for enrollment by grade. I don’t know if I know the answer to that. I know plenty of parents who spoke at the recent meetings that CSD needs to be aware of this. Opening Westchester does not seem to answer the population explosion happening in south Decatur. Move to K-5 schools seems like a huge undertaking. As a parent I would want to see how the numbers AND staff would get affected by something like that.

      Does anyone know if there are other parents being told that their child’s grade is full up for the next year?

  23. Let’s stop spending money on consultants and start investing in our kids.

    The other problem is that many voters (especially elderly voters) gravitate towards incumbents because it is easy.

  24. Geez, you people. I, for one, have not a single complaint about the administration in terms of enrollment or redistricting. As others have suggested, sometimes I’m in favor of a single elementary school so we can put all this squabbling aside. If you think you can do a better job than the board, run for office. Chances are strong you’ll loath the position.
    ‘You’re going to hate being king more than I did.’ (Game of Thrones)

    1. +1

      The single school solution would give nearly everyone something to be bitterly unhappy about, thereby providing a unifying factor to our small community. It’s brilliant.

      1. Indeed. But since it would make no sense to abandon the school buildings we have, how about this: Each year, randomly assign each child in grades K through 3 to one of the K-3 schools. That way, however many children were enrolled in a given year could be optimally balanced across available classrooms. Remove the expectation of staying in one school for all four years (or always being in the same school with siblings) and eliminate the whining that goes on about “redistricting.” Complicate drop off and pick-up so thoroughly that most everyone opts to walk, bike or ride the bus. Use the substantial bus fleet we seem to be operating to offer a couple of time options each morning (as suggested by Scott, I believe, in a thread a few weeks ago). Continue to focus on offering the highest possible quality of education in every K-3 classroom, strive to minimize the amount of professional time and energy devoted to indulging overly engaged parents (and non-parents). Have CSD adopt the motto of some parents I know and greatly respect: “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.”
        I’ll be in my bunker.

        1. smalltowngal– do you really expect working families to walk from the edge of Oakhurst to Glenwood with elementary kids under the age of 6…which could result from your random assignment proposition. How does that work?

          Randomly assigning families to any one of the 3 elementary schools is not feasible. CSD needs to appropriately plan for the growth rate in Oakhurst. I sure pay enough taxes that they can hire actuarial and real estate consultants to accurately predict growth…or better yet, look at the recent census data.

          If there is one thing that I’ve learned it’s that I need to enroll my 2 year old at Oakhurst pronto.

          1. kachange– do you have any sense of humor at all? And if you say, this is TOO SERIOUS TO JOKE ABOUT, I will then publicly question your fitness to both rear children and participate in public discourse. >:-o

  25. We have to all admit that the 4/5 test period has proven we are better off with 5 traditional elementary schools with the possibility of reopening Westchester if needed.

    1. Actually, we don’t all have to admit that. All of the parents (and kids) I know really like the current configuration. Not everybody likes every single thing about their school routine in every single year. But the people I know personally somehow manage to remember several things that help keep perspective: (1) the farthest you can travel inside the city limit (and therefore the school system) is about 3 miles, so “redistricting” can never represent the same kind of upheaval as it can and frequently does in larger systems; (2) Decatur residents pay taxes to buy into a school system, not a particular school, and we have very even quality across the system; (3) the trade-off for our small, intimate school system is substantially less flexibility in terms of facilities than is possible in larger systems; (4) life is not perfect and there are no guarantees, so concentrate on opportunities and don’t whine so much.

      I know the guy who started this thread would prefer his child attend kindergarten down the street at Oakhurst than over at WP. It makes perfect sense. But if it doesn’t work out this year, how catastrophic is it, really? Both schools are great in terms of educational quality. The family will get to know some families who live a few blocks away, whom they might not otherwise encounter ’til 4th grade. If the parents think it’s a fine and exciting thing, the child will, too. If they don’t, then nobody will have as good a year as they should.

      1. I have a larger issue with 23 students per class because they thought it was a good idea to go from 5 to 4 classrooms.
        I would prefer the ratio of 18-19 students per class with the ability to add a few students if people move into the area.

      2. (3) the trade-off for our small, intimate school system is substantially less flexibility in terms of facilities than is possible in larger systems;

        That is actually quite an excellent point.

  26. So how long did it take for the Westchester decision to come back and bite them? With so much office space in Decatur, the CSD offices could easily be located in an office building and return those Westchester classrooms to students.

    1. Are you speaking from a knowledge of the economics involved? I’d be interested to know the relative costs of what they are doing now versus relocating administration and staff to commercial space downtown and re-opening a whole school. (Including admin/staff time spent dealing with parents who wouldn’t want to be redistricted.)

  27. Wow, my note has sparked some comment. If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that there are a lot of unresolved issues with our elementary schools. I’m glad this can serve as a jumping off point

    A few followups to my original email:

    Since people asked, our older son had a hard time at Oakhurst and we were not sure whether he would continue there, and whether we would start our daughter in kindergarten, or pursue home schooling. In hindsight, we should have registered early but frankly it never crossed my mind that it would be an issue. Didn’t the city just go from 3 to 4 schools, to eliminate overcrowding issues? Aren’t we already an Oakhurst family?

    It’s worth pointing out that the city did not go out of its way to notify anyone about the Feb. 1 registration, or suggest there might be issues with late registration. Current Oakhurst students received an email, but I’ve met other people in the neighborhood with pre-school children, who had no idea about the registration dates.

    Regarding tuition students, there are many at Oakhurst. From what I’ve heard second-hand, it’s possible as many as 10 percent of the kindergarteners are paying tuition.

    Finally, some perspective. I am upset about my family’s situation (3 kids, 2 working parents, 3 different dropoffs at 8am?) I do think the board could do a better job meeting the needs of families (not just mine) as it places students for next fall. Oakhurst lost a kindergarten class, even though the board had ample evidence that enrollment would remain steady. That said, I understand that projections can be difficult to make. These are complicated issues.

    What I am more angry about is the refusal to reveal the number of children and families affected., i.e. unable to attend their neighborhood school. This should be public information and is needed for us to have an intelligent discussion about the challenges facing our city and schools. Unfortunately, the board is taking a head in the sand approach. No one is going to stop asking, so eventually we’ll have this information, but the fact that it’s like pulling teeth lowers my confidence that our school leaders are willing to acknowledge the real issues facing our schools not just this year but in years to come. Much less remedy them.

    1. “the refusal to reveal the number of children and families affected”

      Refusal to answer sort of gives the knee-jerk impression that an attempt is being made to be deceitful. It’s not exactly a matter of national security, worthy of secrecy. If only a few students are affected, then what’s the harm in saying so? That would be easy to understand, and not a really huge deal. If it’s a substantial number, that probably needs to be addressed.

      Maybe they don’t have any sort of resource that gives them this information, or they didn’t know, but that’s pretty hard to believe. Who knows…

  28. I think we should elect Winnona Park Stud to CSD board to keep him busy, so we don’t have to add another elementary school to accommodate the growing population of Heatherdown Road.

    And to further not respond to DM’s original post, I think the concept of a 4/5 Academy blows. It blew ab initio and will continue to blow in futurum.

  29. In my flurry of words, I left out a key point.

    Students attending their neighborhood school should be a higher priority than avoiding trailers. Trailers are a small inconvenience. Actually attending the school where you live, and where you plan to be for several years, is important.. It improves continuity of learning, increases parental involvement and leads to easier, safer and more economical transportation of students.

    It may be late to shift non-Oakhurst-district students to other schools, but there’s no reason a 5th kindergarten class can’t be opened at Oakhurst. There were five classes this past year, and there are plenty of students to make up a 5th class.

    1. Thank you for speaking up. A wise teacher said to me once, be aware that when you speak up and advocate for your child, you don’t just benefit your child but all the children who have a similar need. To CSD’s credit, it is a benign institution that does not try to discriminate against any children, (not even the children of assertive parents!) But nonetheless, it is a bureaucracy, however benign, with limited resources and political pressures, so things are missed. When a parent or community member advocates for an improvement, CSD will not just help the child involved, but all the children who stand to benefit. The immediate moment may be awkward, but everyone benefits in the end.

  30. “I think the concept of a 4/5 Academy blows. It blew ab initio and will continue to blow in futurum.”

    Why? I’m seriously asking.

  31. This has been very educational for me. I actually don’t mind the academy model, I actually think the use of Westchester has definite advantages, and if STG’s numbers on classroom size are correct, then the board corrected some efficiency issues.

    I think there are two very definite camps here on these issues, and I am squarely in the middle. I think CSD is fine academically, but I have concerns about operations and whether space planning is being handled as effficiently as it should be. I also hope tuition and courtesy students are not taking seats from residents.

    I think we need to separate issues like DM’s initial question here- how can CSD plan for grades, not just the system – from whether the academy model works and address those without the baggage of the 2004 Battle of Reconfiguration. I think I use the wrong words when I discuss this. I shouldn’t say the reconfiguration failed; I should say the administration did not plan well for growth, and I hope they learned lessons from 2004 as we reconfigure again.

    1. Estimating student population, especially at early ages, for a small school system is admittedly tough. It does not take much in the way of folks moving in or moving out to screw things up. So, one lesson is to assume a large margin of error. Having excess capacity is costly and, at some point, wasteful. It would seem, though, that one lesson of the last ten years is that, for the time being, we should err on the side of building in excess capacity to accommodate the “predictably” unpredictable additions that flow in. Certainly, if the allotted space for kindergarten fills during the early registration period, that might be a signal that we need to add space. If, down the road, we find growing excess capacity, we can start erring in the other direction.
      Lurking in the background on this issue is the good point made by Thomas that our schools are not positioned perfectly to match up with student population. That makes zoning for schools tricky, whatever the configuration. As a first principal, though, I hope we pledge to do everything possible to allow people who live in a school zone to send their kids there. Every 10 years, those zone borders may have to be revisited and everyone should be on notice of that. Until they are changed, though, the points made by CSD Mom (as classily acknowledged by SmallTownGal) and Caleb about the stress and hassle of forcing folks across multiple schools should lead us to work as hard as possible to allow kids to go to the school in the school district where they live.

      1. I can’t believe that I wrote “As a first principAL” in a blog about schools. I should have caught that. I meant “first principle.” I am my own worst proofreader. Sorry.

          1. That’s what flashed through my little mind too! I was thinking business can’t be THAT bad!

    2. You cannot get rid of the 2004 baggage and objectively look at our school configuration if the people who make the decisions in 2004 are still in charge. Human nature doesn’t allow it, regardless of how noble those people are (and they are quite noble and do a very good job generally). The only way to get a truly objective look at the K-3/4-5 model is with people who do not carry baggage or have any sort of psychological or career related investment in 2004.

      Same goes for any other such decisions. The folks who make a decision in the first place are very unlikely to admit failure and change course regardless of evidence of failure.

      Not suggesting doing away with anyone- just stating the obvious.

  32. Please, y’all, keep your comments short. I’ve got work to do.

  33. As a former Oakhurst parent, I have observed that principal Mrs. Mack is a rule-follower who quotes what the CSD administration has told her. I wanted to show the school a few weeks back to some new homeowners, and Mrs. Mack said exactly what you were told–that no child was guaranteed a spot at their neighborhood school at this late point in the reg. process. That said, if I were in your shoes, I would let the dust settle after the first week of school and fight for a spot. I found that there are always gliches and no-shows, and space will be found.

  34. Oh, my brain hurts. Like I said, I wish I had paid more attention to this stuff over the last 20 years. I know Tom, and I know how involved he and his family have been in the schools for years and years, and not just as parents, so I totally know where he is coming from on many of his points. I am hitting wait and see mode with some of this stuff….. doesn’t mean I am not joining in conversations and having opinions, but I intend to keep my mind open, personally, until Nellie Jr. hits Oakhurst in fall 2012 and I get some experience outside of College Heights.

    I always want to hear more from all sides and I know lots of people who feel that way (especially less CSD-experienced parents) so lets keep our dialogue flowing.

    1. And there is no one right answer. You don’t have to state a final position–CSD Groupee or CSD Detractor. Only the real estate agents have a vested interest in painting a perfect, rosy, picture of our school system in which all children are all gifted, reaching their full potential, and singing the IB song (YES, there’s an IB song! “I am Refective!, Creative! Proactive! Knowledgeable! or something like that), the teachers are all gifted-certified and skilled in differentiated instruction, the administration is all selfless and heroic, and the Board Members are all tall and above-average. (Or did I mix up my categories?) Even the biggest Groupee will take on the school system if their child has a problem that needs fixing and even the biggest Detractor loves a lot about CSD or they wouldn’t still be there. There’s lots cheaper places to live than Decatur and one could probably live in other ITP areas, send your child to private school, and still come out ahead financially. Most parents love some things about CSD but other things–not so much, and what your love and hate changes over time. It’s a bit like marriage. In fact, some marriages don’t last as long as the whole 12 years that you’re in the school system!

      1. “There’s lots cheaper places to live than Decatur and one could probably live in other ITP areas, send your child to private school, and still come out ahead financially.”

        Actually, I’m not so sure about that. I just googled it, and annual tuition is about $9000 (non-Catholic) at St. Thomas More and $12,000 at Waldorf. If you’e got two kids going to school, $18,000-$24,000 is a gigantic chunk of change, that probably overshadows higher property tax rates and even probably higher monthly mortgage payments, for similar neighborhoods like Kirkwood, East Atlanta, Grant Park, etc. Candler-Mcafee or Peoplestown, or some other places ITP, maybe.

        1. There’s a million variables to consider. Many families who attend private school, even middle class, professional families, get some level of tuition assistance, plus there’s sometimes a multiple child discount. And special needs kids can get assistance from SB 10 if they have a public school lEP first. Of course, when you bought your house, at what price, and where makes a difference. I know so many folks from work that chose unincorporated DeKalb and private school tuition over living in a good school zone. My main point is that I think most CSD families are making a conscious choice and commitment to attend our schools and really respect and care about them. They aren’t just attending them because they are “stuck” the way someone in Forsyth County who can’t sell their house and move might be.

          1. Oh, yes, I agree with your main point (that “most CSD families are making a conscious choice and commitment to attend our schools and really respect and care about them”) and also that there are a million variables about the cost of Decatur + CSD vs. elsewhere ITP + private. But I still think that (for many, probably most people), private school costs (if they have 2 kids, at least) in comparable ITP areas would make their total monthly expenses higher than Decatur + CSD. Even with tuition assistance, let’s say that you get 25% off on kid #1 at Waldorf and an additional $2000 off for kid #2. That’s still about $16,000 a year, or an average of over $1,300 a month. That’s a lot of money! When I think of my average monthly payment on my house (servicing a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, plus insurance, plus taxes); I’d be shocked if I could get anything comparable for $1,300 less total per month in Kirkwood, East Lake, Grant Park, etc.

          2. Have you checked out Forsyth county lately?! I seriously doubt they consider themselves “stuck.” Big houses in cul de sac communities everywhere, a slew of retail development, new schools popping up every year … folks get lots of bang for their buck for much lower taxes. I definitely raised hell about my kin moving there a few years back, but I gotta admit it’s turned out to be a pretty good place (if you’re opting for suburbia) to raise a family.

            1. Oh. I thought all the exurban counties were hurting in terms of the collapsing real estate market. I guess just the ones that my inlaws live in. Substitute the appropriate county name into my statement. Point was that Decaturites are mostly here by choice not because they can’t get rid of their property or limited by job choices.

              1. Girl, I love ya, but I was trying to nudge you NOT to make your point by putting down another county. (Even though I sorta did while doing it! Grrrr. Forsyth’s too recent KKK past.)

                I must’ve missed something…. Why are you assuming that folks are “stuck” when they’ve chosen to live where they live? And why are you thinking that parents elsewhere aren’t also invested in their kids’ schools? I’m just not getting it.

                1. I must not be making sense. My point is that even those who some may deem as CSD Detractors really aren’t. They are obviously freely choosing to live in Decatur and send their kids to CSD. In some places (and obviously I don’t know where those are), folks may be sending their kids to their local public schools, not because they believe in them but because they can’t afford private school and they can’t afford to move because they bought high and don’t have enough equity to sell low. I happen to be related by marriage to some of those folks, counties to remain unnamed. I just don’t hear folks sitting around Decatur saying “If only I could move out of here to a school system I really liked…” or “If only I could afford private school….” Those who have wanted to leave had no trouble selling their house and moving someplace cheaper. Plenty of folks have figured out a way to pay for STM, The Friend’s School, Paideia, Cliff Valley, Waldorf, perhaps with scholarships and loans. The one exception is folks who have wished they could send their kids to one of those incredibly expensive schools for kids with learning disabilities, the ones that cost $30,000 to $40,000/year when all fees, labs, and after care (if any) are factored in, never mind transportation. Those folks have sometimes seemed stuck. They are not happy with the services their children are getting now but they cannot afford to send them where they need to go.

                  1. karass- Thanks for the explanation! I’d definitely gotten off track in trying to follow!

                    “Stuck” (& “frustrated” & “abandoned”) pretty much describes a friend’s experience in attempting to get appropriate services for her child through CSD. It’s very troubling because her child is bright and capable, but because they couldn’t get any traction on getting the concerns addressed, they ended up having to go the specialized school route. The delays were putting the child at risk of completely shutting down on the learning front. Fortunately, the child is now doing well academically; unfortunately, there’s been a loss on developing close ties with neighborhood kids since most bonds are made at school.

                    1. I’m sorry to hear that. Our daughter has Down Syndrome and started at College Heights recently, and we’ve been extremely happy with the people and program there. And I know some other families who have children receiving special ed services who are impressed too. Maybe CSD does worse addressing learning disabilities in particular?

                    2. CSD doesn’t seem to have a very good handle on dyslexia– identifying it or coming up with effective strategies to help the students affected. There are quite a few Decatur kids trying to cope with finding a way to process and learn information, and my friend isn’t the only parent frustrated with CSD’s approach. (I’m not privy to their stories. My friend’s shared a general overview, and I’ve picked up bits & pieces on here.)

                    3. My sense is that CSD does best with disability diagnoses made by physicians, e.g. Down’s Syndrome, physical disabilities, and ADHD. The diagnoses are hard to argue and the interventions are fairly clear-cut. Learning disabilities are tougher to diagnose, can mimic the range of normal development, and are easier to deny. Some in CSD used to deny that dyslexia was a valid learning disability covered by state and federal disability legislation. To address that misconception, the law was amended to name dyslexia specifically as a covered entity but not everyone has caught up. Some staff use nonstandard ways of defining and measuring learning disabilities so many families have resorted to going to private psychologists experienced in psychoeducational testing to get expensive, but full batteries of testing and definitive diagnoses. Why has CSD been slow to identify and remediate learning disabilities? Some of it may be financial pressures, limited staff, and institutional inertia. Some of it is a lack of recognition that even bright students can have huge focal learning deficits that, by law, should be addressed just like the needs of children who are failing more globally. To be fair, knowledge about the neuroscience of learning, learning disabilities, and evidence-based interventions has been expanding rapidly so probably not all teachers and administrators are keeping up. IMHO, if CSD truly embraced new advances in interventions for learning disabilities and identified and treated students early, they would save money in the long run. It’s cheaper to give tailored, evidence-based interventions (not just generic “help”) to K-3 children than to remediate children later when their brains are not as plastic and their self-esteem and behavior have already been adversely affected by their disability. PLUS, many evidence-based interventions improve performance among all children, not just those with a disability. In our zeal to make sure that we meet AYP, we have to remember that education is not just about getting the failing children over the bar, but helping all children, even the brightest with no disabilities, achieve their personal best.

        2. Whoa, missed this the first read–non-Catholics pay more? Is that because Catholics contribute as parishioners? Does STM document that the Catholics are actually contributing their fair share on the offering plate? Does one have to have proof of Catholic baptism? Confirmation? Not criticizing STM, just never realized this. I’ve always considered STM to be almost a neighborhood school, just not a public one, but it’s obviously more complex than that. Religion has its rewards….

          1. Yep, check it out: St. Thomas More admissions and tuition.

            Kindergarten through 7th Grade
            Catholic Tuition & Book Bill – $6,545
            Non-Catholic Tuition & Book Bill – $8,910

            “Catholic tuition applies to families who have received a signed Parish Verification Form from their church stating that they are active members of their parish. The Parish Verification form must be on file in the school office of St. Thomas More School no later than June 1st in order
            to receive the Catholic tuition rate.”

            You’d have to ask STM for the reason, but I guess that they think of Catholics as their ‘local’ group that should receive preference over full-tuition-paying outsiders, and that as a Catholic school they have a special responsibility/mission for educating people within the faith.

            1. This is the case with many parish and diocesan schools. I am not Catholic, but I went to one in high school. The premise is that, as a contributing member of the parish and diocese, you support the school already to a large extent, from tithes and other support.

            2. So STM tuition is ~ to that for CSD tuition students as long as one also contributes to the parish. I’m still wondering if STM has a minimum level of parish contribution that a family must meet to qualify as a Catholic and how that is tracked. Where I go to church, the tracking is irrelevant unless one wants documentation for tax purposes.

  35. We are moving to the Oakhurst neighborhood in July and have been told that our rising kindergartener and 2nd grader will go to Glennwood. It is disappointing because a large part of the allure of moving to Decatur was being able to easily walk to school. We are determined to walk and roll to school but are concerned that there will not be many other children from that area riding to Glennwood. Does anyone have advice on how to hook up with other bike commuting kids. I imagine that there are some Oakhurst families going to Glennwood.

    In addition, are overflow kids going back to their neigborhood schools for 2012-2013? Will they have the option of staying at their original school for the sake of continuity even if it is further away?

    Thanks, Hannah

    1. Hannah,
      You might want to put this post on the Oakhurst Yahoo group’s site (if you haven’t already)–a lot of the neighborhood seems to read that.
      Welcome to Oakhurst!

  36. We have been studying CSD system and enrollment since January as we were thinking of relocation this summer too. The latest I’ve heard from the office(administration) was that Oakhurst K is full, Winnona K is full (although they seem to be adding another class now), Clairemont 2nd grade was full. I’ve asked for the 2nd gr and K, because my kids will be that age, and that does leave only Glennwood for them to go to the same school.
    I was hoping to live within a walking distance to schools too, but now I’m not really thinking that’s going to happen. Still, it sounds like Decatur offers so much more stability than other school districts, with the impact of budget cut and rezoning issues, we’d still be happy just to be there, being able to be in a committed “neighborhood” = city for the many long years.
    Just my 2 cents.

Comments are closed.