The DeKalb County School Board was confronted with pleas, threats and condemnation on the controversial subject of school closings at a public budget hearing on April 22.
More than 10 speakers addressed the board at the William Bradley Bryant Center for Technology on Lawrenceville Highway during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting.
Khalid Muhhammad Ali Farrakhan called the proposed school closings a “surprise attack against our Black children” and part of a “nefarious plan” by the board. Glen Haven Elementary “will respond,” he said.
The board is considering the possible closure of Kelley Lake, Knollwood, Sky Haven and Glen Haven elementary schools, with Gresham Park and Peachcrest elementary listed as two alternates. The move is part of a broad effort to consolidate space, save money and correct heavily lopsided enrollment. Closing the four schools is expected to save the district about $2.3 million a year. DeKalb schools are grappling with a $115 million budget deficit.
“God is not pleased with what you are doing,” said Mary Barber.
Rita Scott emphasized that she didn’t want to see any school close, especially Glen Haven.
“More than anything it (Glen Haven) has voting parents and they will remember in November,” said Scott.
Connie Boone said she was speaking on behalf of Sky Haven Elementary and said that school boundary lines should be redrawn first before schools are targeted for closure.
“This makes no sense,” said Boone. “This is like pulling rabbits out of a hat.”
Lamarsharie Way, who said she was against closing any schools, offered several reasons for keeping Glen Haven Elementary open, including making AYP (adequate yearly progress) for six years.
“At Glen Haven we are a unit,” said Way. “We are a family.”
Lisa Morgan said she was speaking on behalf of the Organization of DeKalb Educators and cited that 673 teaching positions have been cut during the past two budget years, creating an increased workload on teachers.
Blasting the school system for spending millions on the new Tucker High School, including what she called an extravagant parking garage, Carolyn Calhoun said school officials decision making “boggles my mind.”
She said Sky Haven has needed repairs for 20 years. “It should have been fixed years ago,” Calhoun said. “Think about all the kids instead of just a few.”
Said Rhonda Stanley, president of the Knollwood PTA, “This whole process is rushed and not thought about clearly.”
Several speakers told the board that the matter was ill-timed, as many students have been preparing for the CRCT tests and have been distracted.
Attendees at the meeting applauded enthusiastically for several speakers and about 40 adults and children wearing red T-shirts with “Glen Haven Save Our School” emblazoned on it rose to their feet numerous times when individuals commented about Glen Haven.
As is customary during the public comment period of school board meeting, board members and administrators did not respond.
A board vote on the schools closure matter is expected May 14.