Families vow to fight proposed bus route cuts
by Lindsay Field
April 03, 2013 12:35 AM | 5558 views | 23 23 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cindy O’Neill and her daughter, Riley, 15, a freshman at North Cobb High School, are upset by the proposed cutting of bus routes to magnet schools and plan to voice their objections to the school board. ‘I’m frustrated they would even consider this cut because it feels like they are not only neglecting the magnet students, but it’s almost like they don’t even want to continue it,’ Riley says.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cindy O’Neill and her daughter, Riley, 15, a freshman at North Cobb High School, are upset by the proposed cutting of bus routes to magnet schools and plan to voice their objections to the school board. ‘I’m frustrated they would even consider this cut because it feels like they are not only neglecting the magnet students, but it’s almost like they don’t even want to continue it,’ Riley says.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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A North Cobb High School student and her mother say they are disheartened and frustrated about the possibility of losing funding for bus service to magnet schools.

The proposed budget cut, which could save the district about $1 million and includes doing away with transportation for the Boys and Girls Club, is one of 13 potential cuts the school board learned about last month.

The board will have to work with an $86.4 million shortfall for fiscal year 2014, and its next budget meeting is today at 1 p.m.

“I’m frustrated they would even consider this cut because it feels like they are not only neglecting the magnet students, but it’s almost like they don’t even want to continue it,” said 15-year-old Riley O’Neill.

She is one of 180 freshman and 438 students in all who are enrolled in the North Cobb High School International Studies Magnet program. She learned about the possible cut in a newsletter from the program’s coordinator.

“If these buses are canceled, it’s going to jeopardize my education,” she said.

O’Neill’s bus picks up her and about 30 other students in the Publix parking lot off East Piedmont and Roswell roads at 7 a.m. every morning.

The commute is about 45 minutes for O’Neill, and she is one of 119 students who is taken by bus to North Cobb for the magnet program.

It’s free to families, but if push came to shove and the district were to charge, Riley’s mother, Cindy O’Neill, said she would pay for it.

“But I know that other students may not be able to do that,” Riley said.

Her mother is a teacher in Buckhead and depends on the bus service.

“It’s just totally disheartening that we’ve reworked our lives for this,” O’Neill said. “I’m really disappointed that this is even a possibility. Without the transportation, most kids couldn’t even attend the program.”

The single mother said her daughter applied to the North Cobb program because it offers a great alternative to kids who want to “pursue academics in a different way.”

“This program has really turned around the way I feel about Cobb County Schools in a lot of ways, and if this got canceled, I’m concerned about what we would do for high school,” she said.

The family turned down Riley’s acceptance into a private school to attend North Cobb.

“We have talked up the program to several people … the whole process has been amazing,” she said. “The things they have accomplished just blow my mind away.”

Board hears concerns

In an attempt to have their frustrations heard, both the mother and daughter emailed every school board member, and Riley also asked each of her classmates to do the same.

The freshman plans to address the school board at an upcoming meeting.

Two board members she’s heard from are north Cobb’s Kathleen Angelucci and Vice Chair Brad Wheeler.

Angelucci says she understands why this cut was presented, but she does not support it and is confident the board will find a way to continue to provide bus service because she believes the students deserve it.

“It would decimate the programs that have been cultivated throughout the district for students with exceptional potential that allows them to extend their competencies beyond the usual scope of high school … to eliminate transportation is unthinkable,” she said. “Why ask taxpayers to fund building new facilities and provide technology if we are going to destroy the programs?”

Angelucci said that with rising costs for student transportation, including fuel costs, districts have had to supplement cuts in state funding with local dollars or limit bus services by reducing the number of bus stops and service areas where students are picked up and dropped off.

When she moved to Cobb in 1995, the state provided nearly 50 percent of total pupil transportation expenditures, and today the state provides less than 20 percent of total expenditures.

In 2011, local school systems earned $295 million in state funding for transportation. Now, that’s down to $133 million.

Wheeler said he’s received 20-plus similar emails from students.

“What I pretty much told (Riley) is that it’s a preliminary list and not set in stone,” he said.

Wheeler said that he appreciates the feedback from the community and when looking at budget woes, he’s hoping to protect the classroom and instructional time first and foremost.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be at 1 p.m. today in the central office board room, 514 Glover St., in Marietta.
Comments
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V Chandler
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August 06, 2013
Any person taking shots at students who routinely stay up to the early morning hours to complete rigorous assignments and maintain high grades to better their future is idiotic to me. The magnet program helps the overall academic rankings of the school. Your solution is to lower the bar to help everyone else? Not real smart.If your child were taking college level courses and scoring well, wouldn't you think they deserve the points they receive on their gpa's? Those who work harder and achieve more, deserve more perks, it's that way in business and other areas of life. You don't penalize the best and brightest. No one gives these students their grades, they earn them.
West Cobb Parent
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April 04, 2013
My concern is that the magnet kids do get more when it comes to the bus schedules. During the fall final exam schedule, the buses "run" for the magnet kids, however, they do not for the children who attend the local high school. We have to pick our child up from the local high school or he can stay until the end of the day for the bus to run. If we did not pick our child up- he had to stay in study hall. The best part, we the parents, had to send a note stating that our child would stay at school during "Normal School Hours!" If the bus can bring home the high school magnet students after exams, they can bring my local high school student home. Oh- my child is in AP classes and we live to far from the school for our child to walk.
Amanda Cobb
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April 03, 2013
As a student who has experienced both magnet and non-magnet Cobb high schools, I can easily say that the IB program was what pushed me to want to achieve. Being in a group of highly motivated peers brings out the best in students. Closing this door by cutting transportation to magnet schools tells these students that their hard work and academic endevours are less important than sponsoring classes for fifth year seniors or buying new projectors and smart boards for every classroom.
NC Parent
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April 03, 2013
@@NC Parent - Nice hateful words there. Insult children - yes that is the answer. You say they aren't graded on a different scale, and then go on to DESCRIBE EXACTLY HOW THEY ARE GRADED ON A DIFFERENT SCALE. 100% is 100% - period. It is new world PC foolishness to think that one could graduate with over a 4.0 GPA. You can bus in all the best and brightest from around the county and what does it do for the NC kids that ACTUALLY RESIDE IN THE DISTRICT? It puts them at a competitive disadvantage with other schools in the area on both ends of the spectrum. It makes the comparison easier in their home district - and more difficult for the kids that actually reside in the North Cobb district. Additionally, North Cobb and Dr. Page put a disproportionate amount of time and energy into their "baby" the IB Magnet program. As whole it has NOT served the actual students who reside in the area well. Furthermore, North Cobb has gone from around 1,900 students to 2,600 during this time - it is the largest enrollment of any Cobb HS and is completely overcrowded...
CCSB failing budget
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April 03, 2013
The CCSB is blind when it comes to avenues they could take to help the budget crisis. Cut area superintedents, cut the cabinet and their secretaries who have secretaries, go to a 4 day school week that cuts down on 38 days of transportation and utilities, and stop spending money on surveys you don't use in your decisions. The budget shortage falls on the teachers backs and at the cost of the students education. It is very sad because eventually people will leave CCSD.
East Cobb Parent
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April 03, 2013
Take the magnet kids out of these schools and watch them all fail to make AYP status....go for it! Kick yourselves in the foot once again GA....lol!!!!! There is a reason these programs are housed at certain schools. But you go ahead GA....cut those buses! I can't wait to watch the results of this one....lol again!
Kennesaw Resident
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April 09, 2013
@East cobb Parent, you sound like the Obama Administration just before sequestration was implemented. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

I for one am not buying it.
Mike in Smyrna
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April 03, 2013
The shortfall for 2014 is $86.4 million. Cutting a bus route is the tip of the iceberg. The board is floating trial balloons. Who is going to make the most noise? A novel approach would be to discuss it at a public meeting at 1:00 PM on a Wednesday.

What is the shortfall for 2015? This is just the beginning. To paraphrase Ms. Angelucci, Why ask taxpayers to fund building new facilities and provide technology if we cannot fund the maintenance or the programs. Coming soon to your community, SPLOST V.

Just Wait
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April 03, 2013
Driving around the county, I see so many school buses half to nearly empty all the time. Buses running around in the middle of the day when school is in session, at night and on weekends. There is obviously a tremendous amount of waste in this system. The best solution, PRIVATIZE! Get out of the bus system altogether, reduce property taxes and let those that use the system, pay for the system.
Powdertowner
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April 03, 2013
I pass Tapp Middle School in Powder Springs every day and there are dozens of buses parked there overnight. I have followed one bus on the E/W Connector until it turns at Cooper Lake Road. Another turns at South Cobb Drive. I imagine some $$ can be saved if they would make the drivers park the buses at one of the schools they run routes for and make the drivers drive their personal vehicle further.
Cobb Taxpayer
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April 03, 2013
CUT IT! I am so tired of paying for special interests, and I am tired of special interests getting tax breaks. It all needs to stop.
anonymous
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April 03, 2013
"The family turned down Riley’s acceptance into a private school to attend North Cobb."

90 percent of local private schools don't provide transportation

And they cost 10 to 22$k

Family was willing to deal with that, but not put together effort of carpooling etc for the magnet program. Hmmmmmmmm

Do away with the magnet transportation funding.
Papermill gal
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April 03, 2013
Too bad the board approved without question the continuing mess that is the transportation department's boondoggle Telematix program, to the tune of over a couple million dollars. The technology has not worked since inception.

Maybe with some better management in that department and a few questions from board members on such pricey but unproven programs (that enrich only certain contractors), students and parents wouldn't be paying the price.

Todd Gack
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April 03, 2013
And the suggestions these people have made that would help make up the budget shortfall so they can still get there freebies are.... (crickets chirping).

Welcome to 21st century America and the "what can I get for nothing with just my hand held out and whining mouth wide open" generation.
profoundly bad
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April 03, 2013
Cutting services to the district's best and brightest would be a profoundly bad decision for the BOE. Not only does it damage the academic careers of talented students, but it will disenfranchise the tax base of good families who live here. Parents are attracted to Cobb because of the many opportunities it affords to students; dropping access to magnet schools will result in fewer high quality families (and fewer students) staying in or moving to the area. I know it's a tough budget year, but there have to be other ways to make up this small amount--I can think of five area assistant supers who, combined, make about the $1 million needed for magnet buses. Are we telling families that five paper pushers are more important than hundreds of amazing students in unique and valuable programs? Do the right thing, members of the board. Find another cut and save the magnet buses.
Here's why
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April 03, 2013
Are the Cobb County NIMBY RINOS squawking yet again about the county lowering our tax expenditures?

The reason the magnet bus program is being cut is because you only put your child on the bus about two or three times per year on the days you don't feel like driving them yourself. Since the bus is clearly not necessary, and is used only occasionally and entirely at the leisure of the parent, it is being canceled to save taxpayer dollars.

"Property Rights! Lower Taxes! Except when they negatively affect me in the following ways: ANY WAY I PERCEIVE!"

Nimby! You're all Rinos but I am not! Nimby! You're all Rinos but I am not! Nimby! You're all Rinos but I am not! Gays are bad!
Just Sayin'....
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April 03, 2013
Unfortunately, Ms. Riley may be correct in her assumptions. The school board does little to provide for students who excel, but heaven forbid we cut anything for students who barely get by.

It is also very doubtful Ms. Riley will hear anything from the other board members on this. Mr. Sweeney, who was still Chair when we found out we would have a substantial shortfall in revenue is much too busy planning on SPLOST votes to actually worry about how to balance the budget.
North Cobb Parent
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April 03, 2013
We need to stop this subsidy! Here is a big dose of reality - the Magnet program is not good for North Cobb. North Cobb cares primarily for the magnet program which KILLS the chances for the rank and file students that actually reside within the district! Magnet programs get graded on a different scale which is how they graduate with 4.5 GPAs. 458 kids in the Magnet out of 2500 students. That is why all the magnet kids get into GA colleges (UGA/Tech etc) and take part in Hope. The ugly secret is all GA state Universities have strict quotas by county in GA. The local kids in regular college prepatory courses don't stand a chance. The system is BROKEN.

In the meantime - Cobb County Schools were busy busing kids from OSBORNE is south Cobb to Allatoona HS last year wasting money.

Cobb needs to start being smarter...

Angelucci has been a huge part of the problems Cobb schools have experienced over the past few years.
@NC Parent
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April 03, 2013
You have no idea what you're talking about. Students aren't graded on a different scale; they get extra points for taking more advanced classes. Typically, kids in magnet programs are taking lots and lots of AP courses, which makes their GPA higher. If the "rank and file students" pushed hard to take that many advanced classes, they wouldn't be left behind. Sadly, instead of helping students achieve, you just want to pull the smart kids down. It sounds like you are jealous because other kids are smarter with higher GPAs and better chances to get Hope.
Kennesaw Resident
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April 03, 2013
Thank you for your post! These magnet programs do a terrible disservice to in-district students and more people should speak out about it.
South Cobb Parent
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April 03, 2013
I think the real issue is that you don't want students from South Cobb intermingling with your "rank and file" North Cobb students. Shame on you! Students participating in Cobb's magnate programs earned the privilege because of their hard work, and should not be marginalized and disenfranchised due to economic circumstances. I am proud to say that my South Cobb student graduated from the IB Program(with honors), is a straight A college student, and a young woman of character! Maybe the District can explore a transportation fee based on a sliding scale, but let's not cut the service completely.
East Cobb Parent
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April 04, 2013
Magnet programs were originally designed to promote diversity within school systems.....thus attracting students from other areas. Isn't cutting transportation to magnet schools a step toward segregation ? Seems this country is moving backwards.

North Cobb parent, these kids are not on a different scale. They work their tails off and your reward is a greatly improved test score average at your school! Think carefully before letting those scores plummet and perhaps do a little research on just why magnet schools exist and what they are all about:(
North Cobb Parent 2
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August 06, 2013
Please tell me how a child taking AP and college classes KILLS the chances of the rank adn file. Magnet programs take college courses, do you think they should get graded the same as a regular class?
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