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Rezoning process is flawed

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An Open Letter to the LISD School Board: While researching the rezoning issues and reviewing minutes from Boundary Committee meetings, I wondered how we ended up with these “final” two rezoning proposals.

From all indications, it was a flawed process.

This committee was comprised of parents from potentially impacted schools. Naturally, committee members looked out for the best interests of the schools and neighborhoods they represented. Who could blame them? Who among us wouldn’t have done the same thing?

A better scenario, practiced by other school districts, would have been to create an unbiased committee comprised of parents with and without a vested interest, civic leaders, educators and administrators.  An outside facilitator should have managed the process.  And ultimately, there should have been a district liaison gathering requested data so the committee could make fact-based decisions. 

Boundary Committee members did on several occasions ask for data that would have made the decision-making process more fact-based and less subjective. From reading the minutes of committee meetings, however, it is apparent the committee was supplied little, if any data.

With a lack of data to properly evaluate proposals, discussions were based on passion and whichever side had the most advocates in the room. Ultimately, the two proposals selected as finalists seem to be the ones that were lobbied for the loudest, instead of the ones that had the least impact to students and were fiscally responsible. And, again, who could blame committee members for backing the proposals they believed were most positive for their neighborhood’s children?

In the aftermath, one has to wonder what decisions might have been made had the committee been supplied data it requested. The committee’s most basic questions were about costs. Which of the initial half-dozen plans on table were most cost-effective? Which were the least? Committee members never received those answers.

Some committee members I spoke to said they tried to estimate costs by using what little data was known. Two years ago, when LISD trimmed $500,000 from its budget by staggering school start times at the elementary, middle and high school levels, the goal was to reduce bus costs.
The estimated cost of each bus route was $28,000. Some Boundary Committee members reasoned that the proposals that required the least number of students to be bused would be the least cost prohibitive.

According to meeting minutes, however, the proposal that would have resulted in the least number of additional students being bused was eliminated from consideration early on. The minutes don’t provide a reason why this occurred.

My understanding is that committee members also asked the district for data on how much time kids would spend on buses under each proposal. Since that data wasn’t provided, some enterprising parents drove bus routes themselves. However, these estimates were anything but scientific – and they came after some proposals were already eliminated.

The committee was never asked to review the overall impact on students, which to me should be the number one consideration. In the meeting minutes, there is not even documented discussion with school principals or teachers about how each proposal would impact the day-to-day functioning of their campuses.

Why in the world weren’t principals and teachers asked for their input on the proposals?

All of us who have kids in McKamy know the school is overcrowded.  We also realize Shadowridge is close to being overcrowded and that Forestwood is well below capacity.  I believe the majority of parents understand that all Flower Mound schools are excellent, but that we need to balance school enrollments for the sake of our children.

What I object to is the flawed way in which these proposals were developed, with what appears to be a disregard for the impact on our children and cost to the taxpayer.

If nothing else, in order to minimize some of the impact — and the anxiety that kids already are voicing about possibly having to change schools so suddenly — I wish the LISD board would consider phasing in rezoning by extending the grandfather clause to all children.

Allow kids who have started at a school to finish at that school. We still would reach the goal of alleviating crowding at McKamy and Shadowridge and increasing numbers at Forestwood, but do so gradually without so much upheaval for the kids and divisiveness among parents.

Or better yet, admit this process was flawed and hit the reset button.

Sydney Townsend
Flower Mound, TX

 

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