- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Parents want better alternatives and more say when it comes to redistricting.
Hundreds of community members came before the Charles County Board of Education on Tuesday night for a redistricting public hearing in Waldorf.
More than 60 people voiced their concerns regarding redistricting for Theodore G. Davis Middle School and William A. Diggs and Mary B. Neal elementary schools in Waldorf.
One proposal for Davis reduces its population by 239 students, adds 167 to Matthew Henson Middle School and adds 72 students to General Smallwood Middle School.
The second alternative for Davis reduces Davis by 269 students, adding 220 to Henson and 49 to Smallwood.
Many parents voiced concerns about the need to redistrict hundreds of students out of Davis to accommodate for Davis being overcrowded by nine students. Parents voiced concerns that hundreds of seats would remain open while the plan would accommodate some 20 students a year in growth.
Concerned that the plan was accommodating developments that don’t exist yet, parents encouraged the board to think of the students who were already in the school and not think of them as just numbers.
One such student was Hannah Gates, a student at Davis.
Hannah explained that she was a 4.0 student and was involved in many programs at Davis that she did not see were available at Henson, to where she would be moved.
“From everything I’ve read about Henson, after-school activities don’t even compare to what I am in now,” she said.
Hannah said it won’t be fair for her and others leaving Davis to be “taken from these great opportunities.”
Alternative A for Diggs shows a reduction of 265 students at Diggs and a reduction of 66 students at Berry Elementary School. The configuration adds 63 students to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary, 60 students to Indian Head Elementary and 99 students to C. Paul Barnhart Elementary.
Redistricting at Diggs shows Alternative B reducing Diggs by 265 students.
Parents came out in droves to speak against students potentially moving from Berry to Barnhart, with the main concerns being safety and academic integrity.
“No child should be redistricted to a failing school,” parent Lottie Hawkins said.
In 2011, Barnhart failed to meet state standards for the second year in a row, according to results from the Maryland School Assessments.
The MSA is a test given to students in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading to satisfy requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Berry failed to meet the state standards in the special education category for math, but the school was not placed in any improvement status.
Because Barnhart failed to make required improvements in scores two years in a row and it is a designated Title I school, meaning it gets federal funding for technologies and resources because it has a high number of economically disadvantaged students, the school has been placed on school choice status.
Parents were given the option last summer to have their students go to another school, selected by the school system, that outperformed Barnhart.
Students in the Autumn Hills development will be moved to Barnhart based on both plans for redistricting.
Robert Harlan, parent of three students at Neal, directed his comments to parents knocking Barnhart.
He said when Barnhart was in danger of failing last year, parents from other schools didn’t voice a concern that Barnhart was performing poorly.
“Now you may go there and all of a sudden its a despicable, disgusting school,” he said.
Harlan later said that Barnhart wouldn’t be failing for long if the commitment and passion coming out of parents Tuesday night was an indication of how those parents would be once their kids attend the school.
Also, he said everyone needed to look at the bigger picture and do some self-inventory. While parents were knocking Barnhart, he said, “none of the schools here can boast.”
Redistricting configurations for Neal include in Alternative A, Neal’s population reduces by 323 students. Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary School increases 78, Eva Turner increases 142, J.P. Ryon increases 49 and Mary H. Matula increases by 54 students.
In Alternative B, Neal reduces by 245, while the other elementary schools increase, Brown 25, Turner 142, Ryon 49 and Matula by 29 students.
Parents speaking out against these proposals were concerned about going to an older school from Neal, such as Eva Turner.
Many parents were frustrated, much like parents involved in the other plans, about the amount of redistricting over the years.
Jill Kirby of Waldorf voiced concern that while her physical address has not changed, her son, a rising fourth-grader, will be moved for the third time if the redistricting for Neal takes place.
Most children go to three schools, an elementary school and middle school and a high school, prior to graduation. Her son, she said, will go to three schools before he leaves elementary school.
Many parents had similar situations, whether it be moving from Neal, Diggs or Davis. Some questioned why they are moving back to Henson, when they were taken out of Henson a few years ago to fill Davis.
A couple of parents expressed a need to speak with the county commissioners, since most parents saw the problem being new development.
School board Chairwoman Roberta S. Wise, who opted to make a statement though the agenda indicated that the board would not comment, said there would be a public forum at 5 p.m. March 6 at the county government building where she encouraged parents to bring up their concerns about development and the need for redistricting.
Parents on Tuesday demanded that their children be treated not as numbers but as students with needs. They also suggested a trip back to the drawing board to come up with better plans and not just “plan A and plan 98 percent A,” as parent Kevin Smith said.
Superintendent James E. Richmond will make his recommendation to the school board March 13 and another public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 26 at North Point High School.
To learn more
Go to www2.ccboe.com/parentscomm/transportation/redistricting.cfm for details on the three redistricting plans.