Redistricting work nearly complete

Thu, 11/01/2007 - 10:41pm
By: Ben Nelms

It is getting close, one way or the other. Parent representatives of Fayette’s redistricting committee met again Thursday night, approving recommendations to the school board, reviewing the recently completed redistricting map and continuing on their important, and sometimes frustrating, task.

The committee voted to approve five recommendations to be presented to the school board. Recommendations included holding system-wide Open House meetings at each elementary school in the spring, suggesting that the school board assign a task force to study the West Village in Peachtree City and recommending that any growth in the West Village above the current MacDuff/Wynnmeade Parkway area will have students attending Crabapple Lane Elementary School.

Another recommendation would have students with Special Permission be required to re-apply to attend school out of their attendance area and have those considerations be based solely on hardships.

A final recommendation called for being aware and prepared to shift boundaries between Burch, Tillman and Cleveland elementary schools prior to new boundary lines being drawn in the next five years if warranted due to residential growth.

The redistricting map referred to as Option A, essentially discontinuing elementary education at East Fayette Elementary, shifting those students to Inman, Spring Hill and Minter and using the facility for other purposes, was completed at an earlier meeting.

The next committee meeting will address the second option, keeping East Fayette open for business and determining the effect that option would have on Inman, Spring Hill and Minter.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Sam Sweat acknowledged the difficulty of the task set before parent volunteers in the months-long redistricting process. The meeting Thursday had its share of concerns.

“We were able to listen to the concerns of committee members and we were able to address those issues,” he said. “We also heard from several schools where they felt like there was not enough communication between school representatives and the community at their schools.”

The committee discussion led to further concerns, including ways communication could have been more thorough and forthcoming.

Comments from around the room centered on a variety of topics, ranging from the impacts that would be experienced in multiple schools with the closure of East Fayette to discussions of the West Village in Peachtree City and from school infrastructure issues across the school system to the need for adding Cleveland Elementary to the recommendation on looking at shifting boundaries within the next five years.

In all, it was evident that committee members, while often taking different points of view with Sweat and among themselves, were nonetheless insistent that their voices be heard.

“Is the process perfect? Absolutely not,” Sweat said after the meeting. “Is the process democratic and is each school represented. Yes it is. Has the media been involved and have parents been invited to attend every meeting. Yes they have.”

The committee will meet again Monday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. to discuss the second map option, one that will consider leaving East Fayette open. Next up will be a presentation of recommendations by committee representatives to the school board at its Nov. 12 meeting.

A public forum will also be conducted after Thanksgiving and perhaps in the week following the holiday, Sweat said. The date for that meeting will be announced at a later date. The public forum will precede the board’s final decision on redistricting.

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Submitted by concerned SHME ... on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 11:55am.

I cannot believe the Citizen reporter did not even mention how rude and controlling Sam Sweat was last night, even to the committee members. All of the committee members were given an opportunity to stand up and comment. The Spring Hill rep stood up and gave a very heartfelt plea for her school not to be affected as much as is proposed(with 50% of their school population slated to be zoned to different schools). Sam Sweat told the Spring Hill rep to "either sit down or I will have the Sheriff escort you out". That is why more parents need to go to these redistricting committee meetings at the Board of Education to actually see what is going on. These reps are being manipulated and deceived. They honestly feel like they have worked hard and done a good job, but as soon as a rep has an opinion that Sam Sweat does not like, he shut her down. These reps have been fed only what Sam Sweat and C W Campbell want them to know. They are only concerned with numbers and not how it will affect the children. And, they have to fill up a new school that was built out in the cow pastures in the least populated area of Fayette County. And, Sam Sweat does not care who is zoned where, because he can put his kid anywhere he wants to! And, when parents start complaining about the new district lines, he can point his finger at the school reps and say they approved it. I personally am appalled by Sam Sweat and I think we should start a petition to have him removed from this committee and from his job at the Board of Education!

Submitted by sloopy on Mon, 11/05/2007 - 6:45pm.

I have a big problem with the new plan Mr. Sweat seems determined to ram down our throats. Do the people of East Fayette really think they are going to pick up and move all of the staff and half of the kids down the road to Inman? The fact is your staff will be split up among the other schools and there is a very reliable rumor that the new principal has already been chosen and it is not the East Fayette principal. The other point that the parents of East Fayette children might want to ponder is that when the houses that are being built on the Southside of the county become occupied in a few years the former East Fayette students will be rezoned again. Where Mr Sweat and his groupies think they will be rezoned then would be interesting to know. Children should go to school at the closest school to their home. Why would the BOE vote to close a school that is so near so many children's homes?! And don't give me that song and dance about the age of the building. If the age of the building was really a concern then we would be closing Brooks Elementary before we even thought of closing East Fayette.

Submitted by vernonsmokey on Sun, 11/04/2007 - 12:17am.

I totally agree with you about Sam Sweat. He was very condescending especially to the women in the room. You could also tell there were some "Sam Sweat groupies" amongst the committee members. He admonished every new guest in the room for "just now being concerned" about the process. He also stated that he would let no one destroy the work already done by the committee. He kept talking about how "transparent" the process has been, yet no one is allowed to take anything home with them. He also told the Spring Hill folks that they should have been informed of everything up to that point and their plea was too little too late. He stated all the information talked about in the meetings was posted on the web and the newspapers. The Citizen has given out the most specific information
regarding the meetings, but even it doesn't inform parents about exactly who is getting the boot. The minutes from the committee meetings are so generic it is not even funny. You get more details about the food given to the commmitee than what actually was being discussed in the meetings. When anyone tried to bring up the fact that Mr. Sweat had told them not to discuss specifics about the actual boundaries with other parents, he said he meant only during the meetings it couldn't be discussed and that when they left the meeting they could discuss it because they were no longer committee members. Yet at the Sept. 20th meeting the minutes reflect that Mr. Sweat and Mr. Campbell warned members against stating exact information regarding boundaries to parents because things could change.
The parents from SHMS and SHES are concerned now because the proposal
for the closing of East Fayette will result in a 60% and 50% (respectively)removal of their current student populations. No other school in the system is expected to bear such a burden. Someone asked why no one from East Fayette was there. Why should they be? They will receive all the luxuries provided by the new schools they might be zoned to without having to put out any of the money that the current parents have poured into these schools. Nice situtation for them!!! I wouldn't kick a gift horse in the mouth either!!!!!
The other factors that Mr. Sweat and the committee need to consider are that the proposal to close East Fayette came after the committee had started their work. So up to that point, all schools were on equal ground and no one school's current attendees would have been drastically altered or changed. The proposal to close East Fayette drastically changes the attendees at SHMS and SHES.
And the biggest fact of all that Mr. Sweat refuses to acknowledge is, when the BOE came to the parents and asked them to vote for the SPLOST,it was because of the need to build new schools due to growth not due to age. How many Fayette County citizens would have voted to build new schools if they had known Mr. Sweat was really just duping them into replacing old schools?
Mr. Sweat states that "All Fayette County schools are great!" If they are all so great, why aren't his kids attending the schools they are zoned for???

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Sun, 11/04/2007 - 6:27am.

How many Fayette County citizens would have voted to build new schools if they had known Mr. Sweat was really just duping them into replacing old schools?

Why wasn't our school board honest with us as to the real reasons they tried to sell us on those huge school bonds the taxpayers ignorantly passed at the polls? They never said anything about replacing schools? Supposedly it was all about accommodating growth.

My kids won't be moving. But they're going to lose half the kids they've been raised with and those will be replaced by an equal amount that don't want to be there and whose parents are going to have a huge chip on their shoulders. So much for the Minter family learning atmosphere.


"That man was Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard".


Submitted by timeforchange on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 9:51am.

Unfortunately for the kids being moved these petitions, letters and emails are too little too late. The time to stop these decisions is at the ballot box. The school board meetings are sparsely attended. One of the Board Members Marion Key consistently challenged the building of Inman based on exactly every one of the concerns on this board. She stated it was the wrong place, wrong time and would end up displacing too many children. She was the 1 in the 4-1 vote for building Inman. What was her fate – to be vilified by Smola and Smith etc. She stuck to her guns and voted against it. Remember this in 2008 at the ballot box when your kids have been moved unnecessarily. Vote in candidates who respect the citizens of Fayette County and do not have vested interests in land and building contracts etc.

Submitted by g8trgrl on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 10:53am.

Stop the building in this town & you can stop the movement of kids. The bottom line is growth -too much. Three schools are overcrowded, why? Because of more development. Get it slowed down or have huge redistricting. I am at a crowded school and look forward to some relief!

1and1isnt3's picture
Submitted by 1and1isnt3 on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 7:16pm.

You say you are at a crowded school and are looking forward to relief, well keep looking sister because in case you haven't noticed the current rezoning is all about closing a school and shifting a whole bunch of kids around unnecessarily. It will do little, if anything, to relieve overcrowding. (If I'm wrong, please, do tell.)
When are the citizens of Fayette county going to wake up to this shell game that is going on?
Can anyone tell me why they are closing a school when others remain overcrowded? If closing East Fayette and moving it's students to other schools was the plan all along WHY DIDN'T THE SCHOOL BOARD TELL THE TAXPAYERS OF THIS COUNTY ABOUT IT?????
Does anyone else smell something?

Submitted by g8trgrl on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 9:31pm.

The other night at the meeting each school's enrollment #'s were given and none are overcrowded next year. Don't know when it was decided to move all elementary kids out of E. Fayette & make it a facility with new uses, but there seems to be room with 2 new schools coming. I know for a fact my school will have relief next year. I wish people did not have to go thru so much movement, but it seems unavoidable with the way the growth has happened in this county. People should be mad about that! Why doesn't anyone seem mad about uncontrolled growth?

Submitted by blondielocks on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:09pm.

This is not the type of behavior that one should expect from an elected official of the school board. Fayette County has always held its head high when tossed about into the arena of school politics in this state. Why, this very fiasco is making the problems that neighboring Clayton had a few years ago seem almost comical. First an armed off duty police officer, who by the way I found out is married to a teacher from East Fayette (wonder how he liked the comments made by the parents about the teachers over THERE) and now threats of being removed from a meeting where the parent is simply trying to discuss what is in the BEST INTEREST of the children? Seems that a few people have become a little too big for their own britches. Maybe what needs to happen is the concerned parents of Fayette County need to get outside influences involved in these charades until the truth is finally uncovered. SHME parents, the media's right next door breathing down the necks at WHS, now could be your chance!
Or let me see, next the blogs will be 'threatened' even though the Constitution guarantees that we all have the right of FREEDOM OF SPEECH. That's right, Fayette Citizens - you have the right to be heard and Sam Sweat or the PTO 'powers that be' at Minter or the Administration can't stop you. Afterall, we saw how the committee was trying to weed its way out of allowing the public, and most importantly, the MEDIA to attend their redistricting meetings.

Submitted by g8trgrl on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 9:47pm.

I don't think there were any elected officials at the redistricting meeting Thursday night. Also, The media has been at every meeting, they even filmed a couple of them! Everyone will be heard at the open meetings soon to be held in front of the elected Board of Education. There will be plenty of free speech then.

I wonder what the truth is that will finally be uncovered?

People need to accept change - it comes with all the new houses being built.

Submitted by heatjam on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 7:03am.

People need to accept change...if it makes sense!!!

The committee is talking about closing a school after the tax payers were told that MORE schools were needed to alleviate overcrowding!!???
Huh?? In a few years, when the new schools are overcrowded (since they will be built smaller than SHM) will the B of E came back to us taxpayers and ask for another sPLOST or bond to pay for a new school? Now, don't get me wrong!! I am certainly not blaming the committee. They are being led by Sam Sweat who, more than likely is having his strings pulled by the powers that be.

The committee is also talking about redistricting a small subdivision that walks to its current school. HHHMMMM...moving more kids, having to offer bus service (at these fuel prices) Makes a whole lot of sense to me!!!! NOT!

Yes, new houses are being built and eventually people will move in and send kids to schools but common sense must prevail!!

Submitted by notjustcomplaining on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 4:08pm.

What should be the take-away from the just-completed process
of elementary redistricting?

Was it a bad process?
No. We got almost everything we wanted: A neutral,experienced
subject matter expert, community involvement and
a process where both collaboratively would develop

What went wrong?
Sam Sweat and C.W. Campbell stayed in the picture.
Let's face it, they're not impartial, they tweaked
maps from the sidelines, and they were HUGELY
disrespectful and condescending to the
committee representatives, the public and the media.
They are not facilitators! They railroaded and
insulted participants, and guess what? Buy in to
the end result is horrendous!

Let's place blame squarely on the immaturity and
unprofessional Sam Sweat and C.W. Campbell and use
this as an opportunity to GET THEM OUT!

Taxpayers deserve the process that Kelley Carey and
the Community Advisory Group outlined, but could not
execute! Shame on you, Dr. DeCotis, for letting these
bulls stay in the china shop. It's a mess.

Submitted by heatjam on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 4:55pm.

Well said!! Now the committee needs to get together WITHOUT the "powers that be" and write a letter to the editor explaining what they TRIED to do!!! Let the targets go back to where they belong...on the backs of Sam Sweat, CW Campbell and Dr. DeCotis!!

Submitted by shmparent on Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:30pm.

Are the SHM parents the only parents in the county that are upset that their school will be completely changed next year? Quite a few schools will change drastically. We will no longer have a feeder school pattern. How is this going to benefit our children going off to Middle School?

WAKE UP Fayette County Citizens and email Sam Sweat and let him know what you think. Take a stand now, this is your chance to make a difference.

mother hen's picture
Submitted by mother hen on Mon, 11/05/2007 - 10:51am.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, people should stand up and say enough is enough! But they won't. We tried this last time, and it failed because our community turned on itself, neighborhood against neighborhood to try to protect individual interests. It's human nature. Those who are moving and agry will fight, but those who are not angry won't because they don't want to rock the boat and risk reprisal. Complain about Sam Sweat and his minions all you want, but he knows exactly what he's doing in terms of manipulating the community.

What's interesting to me is the way this process has gone from day one. First it was the mystery middle school. I've heard great things about Bennett's Mill, but the process to populate that school was convoluted and made lots of people unhappy for exactly the same reasons that many people are unhappy now - moving kids for no good reason, disrupting academic and social growth, dividing the community, etc. Now, the middle school issue is on the back burner for the time being, but the shuffling of elementary schools makes the reshuffling of middle school and high school boundaries inevitable. And I don't believe it for a minute when they say that the middle school and high school boundaries are set for at least 4 years! All the changes to the elementary school boundaries will make many of them feed multiple middle schools, which is counter to the stated objective from the fall. Our kids are being moved, they'll make new friends, and then in a few short years they'll have to make new friends all over again because half of their 5th grade classmates are going to a different middle school. It's ridiculous.

I'm not a committee member, so I'm not privy to the goings on at the metings (I haven't attended them because I was advised by a prominent parent member that I was NOT ALLOWED to attend, but that's a different issue altogether). It seems to me that the consultant we're paying for with our tax dollars should have to submit a report to the community explaining the rationale for the recommendations BEFORE the school board meetings so the average citizen has a good understanding of what's going on before he or she walks into the room. Leaning on Sam Sweat isn't going to do much - he's an employee, not a representative. The board members are the ones that should be pressured, but you can't do that without the facts. The public should see those proposals well before November 12th.

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