New school zones to be drawn in secret

Tue, 08/21/2007 - 6:22pm
By: John Thompson

Want to know where your elementary student will be going to school in the next couple of years? Wait until after three months of secret negotiations.

Interested parents curious about the new elementary school redistricting lines for 2009 will probably not see the new maps until November, as redrawing attendance boundaries before final board approval goes behind closed doors.

During last Thursday’s meeting of the committee overseeing the boundary process, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Sam Sweat told the committee that their hard work is getting ready to begin.

Consultant Kelley Carey told the committee that he is finalizing data gathering from the county and will be ready to present it Aug. 30 to the committee.

But that meeting, along with the rest of the committee’s meetings until November, will be conducted in private without the press or public present.

Sweat told the committee, which features one member from each school, to use the side door on the school board building to enter the meeting.

The reason, according to Carey, is that he doesn’t want partial data being spread throughout the community.

The committee also heard Thursday that a complete audit of the school facilities had been completed. School system Coordinator of Safety and Discipline C.W. Campbell and Director of Elementary Education Sandra Watson put more than 100 hours into researching how each classroom at all the county’s schools are utilized.

“It was a great process and we asked each principal how many students can you educate at your school,” Campbell said.

Watson added that each school was different and now the system has a complete list of how each classroom is used.

Carey told the committee that his process is data-driven and that he conducts his research down to the neighborhood unit. When asked about the use of building permits as a guideline for future growth, Carey said that was not a reliable indicator of where the students live or would live.

“There is very little correlation between building permits and who shows up at school,” he said.

As the process now moves behind closed doors into the number-crunching portion, Sweat said he feels good about the new process for drawing attendance lines.

“I think we needed help after the last round and this whole process is data-driven and transparent,” he said.

When the committee members receive the data, they will update parents at each school about the ongoing process.

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Submitted by Lakey on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:55am.

There is no easy way to redistrict schools. Incumbants take a beating no matter what is proposed or what is decided. The last round of middle/high school rezoning was lead by Sam Sweat and every part of the county was affected except the Peeples/Rising Star/Starr's Mill crowd. Funny, but that was Sam's old stomping ground. How was this consultant located? Seems that a Starr's Mill parent heard of him and recommended that Sam talk to him and then the board hired him. Now the consultant wants to do everything behind closed doors and Sam says that the process will be "transparent". Does the old song "Sam You Made the Pants Too Long" come to mind? I don't envy the board the tough job ahead, but using a consultant and trying to keep the public from having any input is not the way to go.

Submitted by oldbeachbear on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:23am.

it will still come out the same. The lines will stay put for Sandy Creek one the WEST side taking all the kids from the extreme EAST side of Fayette county, on the Clayton county line, and those that sneak over. That keeps Sandy Creek and Fayette County High predominatly Black, and the rest of the schools predominatly white. They will keep Sandy Creek and FCHS with openings and the other schools overcrowded. Why? they are hypocrites!

Submitted by Lakey on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 10:44am.


The current topic is to rezone all of the elementary schools. In about two years they'll be another study about middle and high schools. That's when it'll get really heated.

nuk's picture
Submitted by nuk on Wed, 08/22/2007 - 10:02am.

IF the plan is exactly as it reported above, the BOE will be blatantly violating the Open Meetings Act. It does not matter whether they are using a consultant or's subject to the Open Meetings and Open Records laws of GA.

They will either give up documentation and maps as they are drafted and requested or they will be violating the law. We'll see how The Citizen responds to this as well as the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

While it doesn't surprise me in the least that the BOE would like to keep the public completely uninformed and to conduct everything in "private," I'm surprised they are arrogant enough to think they can get away with it.


Buckwheat Rules's picture
Submitted by Buckwheat Rules on Thu, 08/23/2007 - 8:08am.

Does the FCBOE they actually think they won't get sued by by conducting private meetings on such a major issue for families?

I'll tell you right now that if my feedback as a taxpaying resident isn't heard as part of this process prior to re-zoning decisions being reached, my lawyer will be waiting on their doorstep with doughnuts and coffee. However, something tells me he'll have to take a number and get in line.

Submitted by RT Tugger on Wed, 08/22/2007 - 7:07am.

Are you kidding me? We're paying for Mr. Carey's services, yet we cannot be present to see his initial presentation? Not even the press will be allowed? They don't have to hold a lengthy public comment session, or even have a Q & A session, but at least let taxpayers hear the presentation first-hand, without it being filtered. Sam Sweat has the gall to call this process "transparent"? This process will end up being no more transparent than the last round of redistricting. This time, though, we're to get "updates" about the ongoing process. Gee, I wonder what those will contain. I'm guessing we'll get canned presentations with minimal data, carefully crafted by the BOE. This is shameful, but certainly not unexpected, coming from this bunch.

Submitted by notjustcomplaining on Sat, 08/25/2007 - 7:54am.

Sam Sweat has NEVER said there wouldn't be public forums. Just that the map drawing will be in closed session. However, every school in Fayette county is represented by a parent in those "closed" sessions, so take heart. This time we have a MUCH better opportunity for an unbiased map than last time with Sweat, Campbell and Jerry Whitaker working their "magic". Give me an outside consultant to drive this process any day of the week. At least we have a running shot at a decent map this time.

nuk's picture
Submitted by nuk on Sat, 08/25/2007 - 8:06am.

Having some public forums while also meeting in private is illegal also. The fact that one parent from each school is attending doesn't make it legal nor does it make it open either. It's illegal. Period.

Like I said before, IF what was reported by The Citizen is accurate, the BOE will be violating the Open Records and Meetings acts of GA. The citizens have the right to see ANY map that is created, whether that is a draft, just partial, etc. There are no exemptions in the laws of GA that allow for non-disclosure even if the work is not completed. There are no exemptions that allow for closed meetings in this scenario either. This isn't a real estate acquisition, personnel or on-going investigation.

The law is very clear on this as are court rulings relating to the law:

Committees, outside exemption.


Submitted by ole sarge on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 8:29pm.

Consultant Kelley Carey does not want his data compromised or leaked to the public. Pray tell, who pays him? To facilitate his wishes the committee will enter the building through the side door. That certainly sounds like backroom (backdoor) politics to me.

If we had a board or superintendent who had any idea of representative government they would send this high-dollar, data-driven consultant back to his cave. What is readily evident in this whole transparent side-show is that our elected board is looking for a fall guy to blame when the complaints begin.

Submitted by notjustcomplaining on Sat, 08/25/2007 - 7:50am.

The data that could get leaked is not data - - it's a potential map at that point. The parents representing us in this process need the opportunity to focus on building a map, not fending off speculation and rumor about progress with map-building. Let's give them that chance.

Read up on Kelley Carey - - he's not the villain here. Google him and you will find some amazing articles about how NOT to do school planning (just about everything he says NOT to do, we did last time) He is a true subject matter expert in this very difficult arena of school planning. We are fortunate that Sam Sweat had the courage to look OUTSIDE OF FAYETTE COUNTY for someone impartial who could lead this process.

nuk's picture
Submitted by nuk on Sat, 08/25/2007 - 8:11am.

Whether someone thinks that closed meetings are a better way to get a job done than open meetings doesn't matter, it's what the law dictates that does.

The "process" is doomed if it doesn't comply with the law and the participants can be held criminally liable personally for violations.


Submitted by onlyrealcat on Tue, 08/21/2007 - 8:47pm.

he got paid 5000 dollars a day to make the boundry because sam sweat did not want to. cw campball does sam sweat job and so does this expert while sam sweat tries to make my cousin go to sandy creek instead of fayette county high school. the new sister at starrs mill does a good job and sam sweat was failing there. show me the money!

The only real cat in town

Submitted by notjustcomplaining on Sat, 08/25/2007 - 7:44am.

Kelley Carey did not get $5000 a day. He got $5000 for the initial workshop. (That headline misled many people - - thanks to John Thompson's irresponsible reporting) His rate of less than $200 an hour is quite reasonable for his experience level.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Wed, 08/22/2007 - 2:07am.

Well, you see, experts are hard to blame and they don't usually live in town! Also, that way you don't have to do your job to keep your job!
It is kinda like the Sheriff and Mayors not arresting any illegals out of the fields and off the roofs and yards, since that would make their contributors mad. Let the feds do it, or even the state (Sonny).

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