Inter-District Open Enrollment
The School Site Analysis Committee
Mr. Manuel indicated that the committee has ruled out the use of eminent domain to take private property, and that the owners of land around GES/GMS are not willing to sell. Many of the parks in the city have been developed with federal funds. This makes that land difficult to use for schools. The money would have to be given back, and the city would have to file for approval to change the designated use of the land. Mr. Manuel indicated that this process could take 2-3 years. Cloyes Park and the Soccerplex, however, are still on the table. The property across from Target has been determined to be very expensive to develop since it is dominated by lakes.
Mr. Hoover questioned how the criteria being used by the committee was determined. The data from the community survey was given to board members on Tuesday. Ms. Landers stated that the committee would meet again to review the data and use it to help shape the criteria they are using to evaluate land sites. Mr. Hoover said he did not feel the survey data on site preference was particularly helpful, because people were choosing from parcels with incomplete information. He did, however, feel that what was most important was what the public perceived to be the most valuable in making the decision. He noted that over half of the survey participants chose “Being close to neighborhoods” as the most important criterion for choosing a school site. Participants also chose “Encourage economic development” as the least important criterion. He then posed the question of how many elementary schools the district believed it would need in the future. He asserted that if we will only need four elementary schools, then there should be no need to avoid looking at land close to GES. Mr. Manuel indicated that the district administration would like to find a consultant who could project those future numbers. He is not confident that the projections they are currently using are accurate. The district has already exceeded its 10-year growth estimate. Mr. Hoover noted that the new housing built in the last few years have been $2000 per month apartments and $700,000 houses. These are not the types of housing that attract families with school-aged children, so he is not convinced the district will need a fifth elementary school in the future. He urged the administration to slow down and make sure we are making the right long term choices.
Mr. Manuel expressed how difficult this task is, given the tight December 5th deadline imposed by the city. He urged the board members to contact city leadership to extend the deadline. Both he and Ms. Fisher indicated that the city’s deadline is tied to a spring bond issue. The bond issue will cover more than just school costs, so it cannot be moved. Mr. Hoover emphasized that this is a “forever decision” that should not be rushed. Ms. Fisher stated that she and Mr. Manuel would reach out to the city. Unless the deadline is moved and the timeline changed, the Site Analysis Committee will meet again on December 1st, there will be a Public Community Forum on December 2nd, and the GMSD Board will vote on one of the top three sites on December 5th.
We Have a New Tool!
In Other News…
Sheila Hahn spoke during the Citizens to be Heard portion of the meeting. She asked the board to take the Winchester property off of the table as a consideration for a new school site. She insisted that the district needs population projection data. She stated that the district also needs to determine if and when we can reacquire GES. She feels that the timeline is too rushed. There is an online petition signed by almost 1000 citizens who do not want the Winchester location for a new school. By taking the Winchester property off of the table, the process can slow down and not be held to the city’s rushed deadline.
During Natalie Williams’s legislative report, she stated that she, Lisa Parker, and Linda Fisher attended a TSBA Legislative Advocacy Workshop in Nashville. The school board representatives in attendance from across the state put forth many resolutions, some of which will be presented in the next legislative session. Among some of the more interesting ones to watch are:
* The option to use ACT/SAT testing in place of TNReady
* State funding for Advanced Placement tests
* State funding for RTI staff
* Modification of the new state mandate for student physical activity
* Resolution to allow for the sale of excess property
* Allowing online training for school board members
A Thanks and Farewell
New members, Amy Eoff and Suzanne Jones will be sworn in at the next meeting on December 5th.