Kindall moves to discuss, not reconsider, school district rezoning

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 1:20am

Instead of the motions he’d planned to make asking members of Nashville’s Board of Education to reconsider a school district rezoning plan, board member Ed Kindall on Tuesday said he’d rather see — at least for now — a meeting between the board and school administrators to discuss plan logistics.

The motion appeared to be one all board members could accept as it passed unanimously. One of the board members who voted in favor of the rezoning plan — Karen Johnson — was the individual to second Kindall’s motion.

According to Kindall, it is the implementation of the plan that will determine whether the rezoning will diminish district diversity or treat students unjustly.

“My biggest concern has been racial and social isolation. If we can find ways to accomplish what the board is trying to accomplish with the system and not do that, then I’m OK,” Kindall said. “I think it’s very important that we set the parameters now, that we set the policy now, that the administration clearly understands that these are not wishes. These are not things that we want to do. These are things that we must do.”

Details that will be discussed at the still unscheduled meeting include the minimum numbers of students needed to qualify for school transportation to choice schools, the specifics of communication of options with district parents, and timelines and budgets for capital projects associated with the change.

The rezoning plan, as passed by the board in a divided vote over the summer, recommends that students no longer be bused from low-income MetroCenter neighborhoods to Bellevue’s more affluent Hillwood cluster.

Students in those neighborhoods are considered residents of “choice zones,” and can choose whether to attend school close to home or at Hillwood schools. Details that will determine the extent of free transportation were not publicly discussed at the rezoning presentation immediately prior to the board’s vote.

Supporters say the change brings Nashville closer to neighborhood schools, and improves opportunities for parent and community engagement. Opponents call the plan resegregation, noting the decrease in percentages of African-American and economically disadvantaged students at Hillwood schools, as well as the slight increases in these populations at some Pearl-Cohn cluster schools.

Interim Director of Schools Chris Henson said Tuesday that district officials have not determined the details for transportation options. The rezoning plan stipulates that students who choose to attend school outside their neighborhoods will be provided with transportation if certain minimum passenger numbers are met, but those minimum numbers have not been determined.

“I think it’s appropriate to have that conversation with the board,” Henson told board members.

Marilyn Robinson, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said she supports Kindall’s plan. Details about the implementation must be settled, she said, and will provide answers as to the extent of the district’s ability to guarantee the resources and choice promised by the plan.

“Can they deliver everything that they promise, and ensure diversity and true choice, and the resources that are required?” Robinson said Tuesday. “If it’s racial isolation, that’s not going to work. But I think if parents are communicated [with], if the message is right, and they have transportation, and they have choice, [students] will go where they want to go.”

Robinson has said her organization is still working with the national NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund to assemble information that could contribute to a possible lawsuit stemming from the plan.

There will likely be no legal action, Robinson said, until implementation of the plan begins. That could occur as early as parent notification of changes and options brought about by the plan. Changes brought about by the board’s summer rezoning decisions won’t go into effect until the 2009-2010 school year.

Robinson said she plans to attend the meeting when the date is set. She said she would prefer that the portion of the plan pertaining to the Pearl-Cohn and Hillwood clusters be rescinded.

Although Kindall had publicly stated that he planned to make a motion to that effect at Tuesday’s meeting, instead opting to ask for an implementation meeting, Robinson said she does not in any way consider Kindall’s actions to be a backing down.

And even if it were, she added, that wouldn’t change the NAACP’s position.

“He could back off, but the NAACP isn’t,” Robinson said.

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By: westreet on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Why does the school board focus so much on race? It seems that the school board believes that if a school has a high minority enrollment it cannot be a high performing school and that have to go somewhere else to get a good education. What message does that send to the kids that are left in that school? Kids are not stupid. It seems like all Kindall and the NAACP care about is that the schools be diverse. If they spent half of that time in effort into trying to actually make the schools and neighbourhoods better, to make them into an environment which the kids can thrive, learn and develop, we wouldn't be in this situation.

By: grapa on 12/31/69 at 7:00

This subject need discussion at every opportunity, even here. I would have expected more than one comment. Mr. Kindall is correct in not pushing the matter too quickly, if that is what he is doing. He also know that getting a simple majority on the school board seems not to be there.Mrs. Robinson does not help the matter by holding a threat over everyone's head while cooler heads are trying to get together. I am sure she beleives that that is the only way she and her supporters can get what she feels is necessary. Now, if she is a parent she is doing the correct thing because history will tell you that an organized parents group can carry some say-so power. There exists in many schools a "one-up manship" between teachers and administrators. Competition between schools should not exist within a school system, but has been emphasized by 'value-added' scores, NCLB, and the state department comparing schools. While this is a 'silent' understanding in the field of education it causes an inequality of resources going to individual schools.While I do not agree with the threats of individuals or groups being held over the heads of those making decisions there needs to be a continued monitoring of the board and each member to meet the needs of all students.