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New School Rezoning Forum Announced (Press Release) April 25, 2007 8:21 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Local Politics, Politics, Touchy Subjects
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A coalition of parents and neighborhood organizations from across Knox County announces a community-driven county-wide forum to discuss the proposed school rezonings. The forum will be held at the Knoxville Expo Center, 5441 Clinton Highway, on Thursday, April 26th, 2007 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The coalition consists of parents and neighborhood groups in Knox County who are not satisfied with the level of community and parental involvement in deciding this important issue.

The purpose of the forum is to solicit from citizens their unanswered questions about the rezoning proposal that are specific to their individual school communities, to speak with one voice in urging postponement of the school board’s vote on the proposal, and to advocate for a new process more inclusive of citizens in addressing those questions the proposal seeks to answer.

In addition, the organizers will present an introduction to the advantages of good community planning and how citizens can become more involved in the process. The agenda will include a discussion of the underlying linkages between the current chaotic rezoning process, the perils of uncoordinated school and community planning, inappropriate land and residential development approvals, and the benefits of meaningful citizen input.

One of the forum’s organizers, Powell resident and longtime schools activist Tamara Shepherd, said, “This proposed school rezoning plan is a band-aid, not a real solution for the problem. The proposed plan will not address many of the underlying deficiencies of our current school zoning plan and it is being undertaken without understanding of the long-term effects of their actions. Changing communities around in this manner has significant implications throughout our county.”

Sharon Davis, president of Town Hall East, feels that while some opportunities for public comment have been provided, most people in her neighborhood feel their message is not being taken seriously. “The proposed rezoning plan will tear apart our neighborhood and I know many other communities in Knox County feel the same way,” Davis said. “The public comment period is too short and does not involve residents in a meaningful way. There is not enough time between the forums and the board vote for them to take all of our concerns into account.”

Lisa Starbuck, president of Northeast Knox Preservation Association says, “Even if your child is not affected by the current high school rezonings, just wait. The school board has already announced that rezonings for middle school and elementary schools are just around the corner. The time to fix the problem is now.”

The group hopes to encourage involvement in a new citizen initiative advocating for better schools and planned growth. Civic activist Bob Wolfenbarger puts it this way: “As parents and members of the community, we have a responsibility to our children to give them the best education we possibly can. We would like to identify those people who want to be involved in a process to make a positive change in our schools, then bring them together to seek solutions.”

The group is directing citizens to http://www.knoxschools.info for those wishing to join a rezoning e-mail list and for more information.

CONTACTS:
Tamara Shepherd – 947-0660 (Powell Community)
Sharon Davis – 525-1242 (Holston/Chilhowee Community)
Lisa Starbuck – 659-5708 (Ritta/Gibbs Community)
Bob Wolfenbarger – 521-6566 (Alice Bell/Spring Hill Community)
Susanne Bentley – 540-4000 (Carter Community)
Pamela Treacy – 567-1960 (Farragut Community)
Cathy McCaughan – 742-4242 or Doug McCaughan – 898-7189 (Bearden Community)

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Comments»

1. Neil Thompson - April 25, 2007

What. A. Joke. A forum so nobody’s kids will have to move to any school they don’t want to go to. Good to see the parents of Knox County really care about school system as a whole. Face up to reality folks, there is a new school being built and that school will have to have enough students to make it viable. Oh, and good luck influencing development decisions.

2. Cathy - April 25, 2007

Neil, I’m sorry you are so self-righteous about the proposed re-zoning. This re-zoning plan is intended to help with an overcrowded Farragut and under-utilized Austin East. It does neither. Taking students from the parent responsibility zones (prz = walking distance of school) and sending them across town is economically and environmentally ignorant.

3. Doug McCaughan - April 25, 2007

What’s really cool about our Democratic society is that I, a citizen, can be part of the process as decisions such as the school rezoning are made by our elected officials which makes such a forum not “a joke” but a “responsible act.” So, yes, I absolutely can influence development decisions. If more people took on such responsibility instead of “what a joke” attitudes such as Neil Thompson’s, we would have a better society.

The rezoning plan in its current state is not researched well, is not supported through good figures (the MPC data specifically is in question), and other, better, alternatives such as permanent geographic zones with open enrollment or smaller community school have not been explored.

I think that if the parents did not care about the school system as a whole that such a forum would never have come together. This rezoning goes beyond just parents as it will affect property values of homes whether or not you have children. It will affect your morning drive because additional cars and buses will be traveling longer routes. This is beyond just the parents. This is about environment, economics, logic, and responsible government.

The forum is to discussion the school system as a whole. Neil, I hope you come participate and give you input.

4. Neil Thompson - April 26, 2007

Doug,

I don’t come to this issue without any experience. I lived in Gwinnett County, Georgia from 1984-1995, when it was the fastest growing county in the country. System-wide rezonings were on an annual basis; not every 15 years like it is here. That stopped in 1990 when the county (voters) passed a massive tax increase so the school zones could be made permanent. Any new zones that were added had its full complement of High School, Middle School and Elementary Schools. Knox County could do the same (and should imho) but it will cost you. I also lived in Marion County, FL, where they added 2 new high schools in 7 years.

Growth has its share of benefits and pains, school rezonings are one of them. Since Knox County doesn’t rezone that often, it doesn’t surprise me that they are a little inept in how they execute whatever they plan. What impressed me about the plan was at least the effort by the school system to plan beyond the next budget cycle. Of course, the devil is in the details and there are certainly tweeks that can be made that would improve it.

As far as participation, you have done a great service to the interested by your work on Reality Me. As far as influence, the group of parents you belong to will probably do a good job of stopping the “plan,” but you have to engage a whole new audience (County commission, individual developers and even the State Legislature) to influence where new subdivisions are going to go in the county. From the way I see it, the school system and the citizens of Knox county will have to deal with the reality that is growth.

5. Doug McCaughan - April 26, 2007

Hopefully the school board will step back from this plan then form a coalition of parents, teachers, developers, civil engineers and whomever else would be appropriate to create a better plan than the current proposal.

This certainly cannot stop with just a “no” vote. The people who inspire the no vote need to keep their momentum going to ensure the next plan is the “yes” plan.


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