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Elitism Plays No Role in Lakeside Community Redistricting Debate

A local parent takes issue with a recent letter to the editor that said parents fighting to keep their children in local schools are elitist.

North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch welcomes letters from readers. Send them to jonathan.cribbs@patch.com.

Should it be the responsibility of one school community to improve the educational standards of another? In a , , a former parent, said he thought the Lakeside High community was elitist and promoted their self-serving, socially-economic advantages over those from clusters with less-than-stellar academic performance. He said redistricting was a noble effort for the community, and Lakeside High community students could pollinate the rest of the DeKalb County School System so everyone could benefit.

Where is it written that our students should be responsible for improving the educational achievement of all schools countywide? Our students should be provided the opportunity to learn in a safe environment with high standards for academic achievement and necessary resources to obtain their education. The responsibility of improving the educational standards across DeKalb County rests with the board of education.

I am befuddled why so many people see the Lakeside community as an elitist community. When I bought a home in the Lakeside High/ area in 1985, there was an elementary school on the verge of being closed. Thanks to the hard work of many who came before me in the Oak Grove community–such as Joey Callaway, Priscilla Harris, Jane Bush, Anne McCord and Merrill Fraser–they set higher standards for educational achievement in our community. Many parents who had children in Oak Grove Elementary in the 1980s demanded more from their students, teachers and school administration. These parents recruited a principal who could help us achieve our goals. They raised money for extra instructional incentives and resources. I came in and followed their lead once my eldest son enrolled in kindergarten. We worked hard to build a nature trail, raised funds for foreign language instruction and found ways to support our teachers.

This is not rocket science. Any school community can do the same. It takes a lot of sweat equity. Desire for entitlements don't work so well.

These educational values didn't rest with the elementary schools but followed our students into high school. Karen Rowles and I took over the Miss Lakeside Pageant in 1994 when the choreographer quit. We continued to support the event which was the largest money maker for the Lakside High PTSA at that time until 2000. When I saw the Miss Lakeside Pageant in 1994, I was shocked at the deterioration of the school from when I had been a student there in the 1970s. The gym curtains were in shreds. The acoustics in the gym were horrible, and there was no equipment for any type of musical performance. The gleaming Lakeside High of the 1960s and 1970s was showing its age by the 1990s. The money from our property taxes was spent in other parts of the county. Many people worked long, hard hours in our local elementary schools and high school raising funds to provide not only extras but necessary equipment. The school board was not focusing economic resources on our community though our property assessments surely went up to reflect the value of our school district.  

Coleman Seward, former leader of the DeKalb NAACP, served as a judge in the 1990s for one of our Miss Lakeside pageants. He was stunned to see the school's facilities because he had been led to believe that our school had everything. Well, it is not paved in gold. He asked me how we had such high test scores with such outdated equipment and facilities. I told him once he stepped in the gym, he would see the real strength of the Lakeside community: our teachers, our students and our parents.

I have been out of Lakeside High for almost four years. I am glad. I had three active boys who tested me as well as the schools they attended. I am not white-haired, and it is a testament to the strong DNA provided to me by my parents. I know people in our community who have students at Lakeside High. Are they snobs? No. Are they elitists? No. Are there parents at the school in charge of committees that are difficult? Probably. Are their teachers who may not be the best? Maybe. Are there parents who would fight tooth and nail to make sure their child gets the best education they can at Lakeside High? Definitely.  

What parent wouldn't want to see their child have the best teacher? What parent wouldn't advocate for their child? I never could get my children's schedule changed or get a preferred teacher (and don't think I didn't ask) but I support any parent that can.  

If Miranda wants to be a Christian and spread the wealth, great. He just happens to live about 2 miles from Lakeside High between it and . Funny thing: I also live about 2 miles from Lakeside High. My children could walk and ride bikes to Lakeside. Yet, Miranda never faced the prospect of being removed from the Lakeside High attendance zone upon which he casts such dispersions. I live on the south side of Lavista Road and faced redistricting under the original plan. I and many of my neighbors want to stay in this vibrant community. What some people call elitist, I call hard-working. What some may call self-serving, I call diligent.  

If you want to improve the educational standards of the other areas of the DeKalb County School System, great. I hope you will be out there in the other school clusters volunteering your time and talents to tutor other students. I contributed to our community and want to remain a part of it. What I think we should focus on is not the Lakeside High area but the mismanagement of our entire school system. We do not need to pit neighbor against neighbor or even one school community against another. We need need major changes to flow from the school board into the entire school system. Our school district needs to be free of nepotism, corruption and stupidity.  

The real question is where is the money? Where is the ethics policy for our school board and the administration? Where is the outrage when a superintendent fills up three SUVs in one day with our tax dollars from his county credit card? Why are there so many people at the central office related to present and past school board members who do not teach in a classroom? Where is the Ernst & Young salary study conducted with our tax dollars? Why are our teachers furloughed while administrative staff receive excessive raises? Why is our administration not required to document expenses? Why don't we have an ethics policy? How can we continue to raise our taxes without proven results in achievement? Let's focus on improving the educational standards of DeKalb County. Let's demand more from our school board. Let's stop the name-calling and labeling of certain schools out of self-righteous indignation or jealously. Let's focus upon our students. Let us provide all students the best education they can obtain from kindergarten though high school.

Rebecca Wynn Amerson
Decatur

Tom Doolittle February 18, 2011 at 02:38 AM
A well thought-out rebuttal. This discussion is healthy for this community.The original letter writer isn't the first person who has expressed a concern over "elitism" in the community. Can someone be too proud of him/her self or something else (you betcha)? However, claims about separatism are extreme. Something ironic in the original letter--the writer's suggestion that Lakeside students spread out among other communities' schools seems to imply the other schools would naturally improve. Isn't that assumption just a bit "elitist"?
Cindi Roberts February 18, 2011 at 03:57 PM
I think Wyndy has written a great response to the first letter. We need to remember the DeKalb objectives in redistricting including proximity, intact neighborhoods, reducing split feeders and increasing educational opportunity. The Superintendent’s plan meets these goals by leaving the kids in neighborhood schools walking distance in many instances, and by changing the attendance lines to better reflect the County’s goals. Tom’s point is also a good one. By redistricting Lakeside students, the original author assumes it is better for DHHS to have these students than in any other scenario. In the pollination Miranda suggests, no new kids go to LHS but those required to pollinate are sent to another high-performing school, DHHS. Will these students really help DHHS since it is already high-performing? For the sake of discussion only, let’s look at pollination considering only the children: Is it better for the Avondale kids to go to DHHS or to Towers/McNair as in the original proposal? Does it benefit more children for DHHS to get the Lakeside kids and have more DHHS students districted out while sending the Avondale kids to lower performing schools? The Superintendent recommendations meet his pollination criteria better than the original plans by bringing students into a higher performing school from lower performing schools. Just an observation to logically assess the situation, not an endorsement of any kind for neighborhoods outside my own.
Cindi Roberts February 18, 2011 at 04:04 PM
(Sorry this had to go to two posts.) Realistically, this subject is far too complex to boil it down to let’s redistrict and cross-pollinate for the good of all children. The attendance lines are not the problem. The problem is the number of kids transferring out of their home schools crowding out the resident kids in the neighborhoods. This is not a slight against the transfers in any way – it is just the underlying problem in any attendance line redistricting. If the kids inside the attendance lines aren’t going to the local schools anyway, the lines just move out farther and farther in order to capture the few that will attend these schools. Until kids stay in their own schools and the parents care enough to get involved, things will remain the same. We are in a district where parent and the community involvement make the schools successful. Wyndy is right in that something needs to be done to fix the overall school system but changing attendance lines isn’t going to miraculously do that. The necessity of parental involvement is key and lack of it is why many of these schools are failing – and, until that involvement is attained, it will be difficult to change the current system in a meaningful way.
L.Leach February 20, 2011 at 01:35 PM
Bravo for Ms. Amerson's response to Mr. Miranda's "Don't Ask" comments. We should always question government bureaucracies. School boards are no exception after all we, the taxpayers, pay their salaries.

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