Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Flight from Clayton driven by school, property values

As a former resident of Clayton County (1993-2001) I’m writing in response to both the recent article by J. Frank Lynch about Clayton County schools and the response to it from Mr. Foster of Riverdale.

While I agree that Mr. Lynch’s article had a very insensitive tone about African-Americans to it, I have to also say that, in my opinion, Mr. Foster managed to lower his letter to the level of Mr. Lynch’s article with his equally insensitive remarks about whites.

I am white but I can’t answer for other whites who are fleeing Clayton County. I can, however, tell you why my wife and I decided to flee Clayton County and move to Fayette County when we married (she too lived in Clayton County for a number of years).

First some background. My wife is of a different race than I am. My oldest daughter graduated as valedictorian and my youngest daughter graduated as salutatorian of Lovejoy High School. My wife has two sons of elementary and middle school age. In Clayton County my neighbors to either side for six years were African-American. In Fayette County our neighbors to either side are African-American.

We decided to leave Clayton County for Fayette County for three very clear reasons. First, we watched the decline in the performance of the school system, most notably the high schools, for many years.

It’s a fact that the overall performance scores of the high schools in Fayette County are higher than the performance scores of the high schools in Clayton County, as measured by the SAT. This is public information and is available to anyone who wants to do the research.

Second, for years we watched the buffoonery of the Clayton County School Board. I’m borrowing the word “buffoonery” from a recent editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which Cynthia Tucker referred to the recent antics of the board.

Third, our experience as homeowners tells us that where school systems decline, property values follow.

Under the circumstances above we decided we didn’t want to raise our family any longer in the Clayton County School System, and we didn’t want to further risk the investment equity in our home. We made a decision for ourselves that was very personal.

It’s unfortunate that there are people out there like Mr. Lynch and Mr. Foster (a teacher in the Clayton County schools?) who are more than willing to make racially insensitive statements in public forums. It’s very sad.

Finally, if Fayette County begins to decline in the same way as Clayton County we will flee Fayette County as well. It won’t be because our neighbors to either side are African-American or are white. That doesn’t matter to us. It will be for the same reasons we fled Clayton County, those outlined above.

We want the best educational opportunities we can get for our children, and we want our hard work and investment in our home to be protected. That’s the bottom line.

In Clayton County I met some very fine teachers. They are not the reason for Clayton County’s decline. The current state of affairs in Clayton County has been brought about by many years of mismanagement by the elected officials of the county. Many of those same officials have been voted back into office repeatedly by the citizens of the county. We each have to draw our own conclusions from that, and make our individual decisions. My wife and I made ours.

Donald J. Reed

Fayetteville, Ga.

What do you think of this story?
Click here to send a message to the editor.

Back to Opinion Home Page
Back to the top of the page