Board support for Franklin bond is wrongheaded
by Ken Sprague
September 04, 2013 01:37 AM | 1341 views | 10 10 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’M WRITING with concern and complaint: The Marietta City Schools board has chosen a wrongheaded rationale for supporting the Franklin Road bond measure scheduled for the November ballot. That rationale, as reported through the media, equates to ridding 1,100 mostly poor minority children from the school system in order to “raise graduation rates, raise test scores, and save $6 million.” Divesting rather than investing in children is a remarkable stance for a public education entity.

It’s understandable that business lobbyists and real estate operatives are pushing hard for the passage of the $68 million bond measure, hopeful of windfall profits on the coat tails of taxpayer risk. Shifting $4 million from Franklin Road to beautify Whitlock will also buy some west side votes. But a solvent school district’s push for tenuous savings through scapegoating disadvantaged minority children is both morally troublesome and legally suspect given the totality of factors.

There is no way of politely dancing around the reality that undertones of race and class have long factored into MCS programmatic and policy decisions. But this latest message is over the top: We don’t want you in our schools! Your oft-stated commitment to providing an excellent education to EVERY child in Marietta has been turned on its head.

Ethics aside, this city’s past forays into the demolition of low-income minority neighborhoods has not improved test scores and graduation rates.

Over the past 15 years, numerous west-side public housing units have been demolished, removing hundreds of low-income, black and Latino students from Marietta City Schools. Yet, the district’s average SAT scores — SAT scores and participation rates are a measure of the health of a school system K-12 — have not improved one iota. In fact, the average SAT scores of all demographic groups continue to demonstrate a downward trend.

TARGETING MINORITIES

If removing minority students from school rolls is not a demonstrated panacea to revitalizing Marietta’s schools, what’s the purpose? One councilman suggested the motive is moving the district’s racial and socioeconomics balance toward more affluent and white. (Demolition of west side public housing resulted in a higher concentration of white students at the “choice” Westside Elementary; open slots were filled by more affluent families. Coincidence or plan?)

At present, a combined three African-American and Latino students sit for the SAT for every two white students. The district average would increase much faster with a rise of 10 points per minority student than ten points per white student. On the other hand, a quagmire of continuously falling SAT scores is on the horizon, given the district’s demographics and the board’s ineffectiveness in addressing the achievement gap through non-exclusionary policies. Enough said.

There is no accurate analysis of the impact of past demolitions on graduation rates, given MCS’s decades-long publication of tainted data on the topic of graduation rates. Required by NCLB for the first time last year to back up published graduation rates with proof, the district’s published rate dropped from the mid-80 percent-range to the high-50 percent-rate.

The last leg of the three-legged stool of board support for the bond measure, the projected $6 million savings, won’t match reality. For each dislocated family that relocates to rental housing inside the school district, a portion of the projected savings vanishes. If on-record statements by councilmen to do everything possible to relocate displaced families within the city are more than duplicitous statements, little if any savings will materialize. (What is the relocation plan?)

MCS STAFF REDUCTIONS NEXT?

Suspending disbelief of your financial projections, another question erupts: Does the plan to reduce enrollment by 13 percent (1,100 Franklin Road students) set in motion the reduction of Marietta City Schools staff by 13 percent? And which demographic groups and programs will most feel the impact of the reduction?

A germane observation: School Board Chairman Weiner is also a director of the Marietta Redevelopment Corp. As board chairman, he has a fiduciary relationship with the district’s school children. As director, he has a fiduciary relationship with the city to advance the best interests of real estate and business. The duties thus appear a conflict in missions and interests.

Community development — not redevelopment — is needed to raise community-wide academic performance. Four of every five of the district’s students are black or Latino, and most are poor. The realistic path to higher overall academic performance is to reduce the institutional and community obstacles faced by that 80 percent of district students. Running them out of town is not a strategy of a respectable public school district.

Positive change takes time. Community building, not bulldozers, is a responsible means to vitalizing Marietta education. In this regard, there are good things happening on Franklin Road. YELLS mentoring, afterschool programming and the Franklin Road Association have successfully engaged in community work over the course of the last six years. Investing in a community-building approach would raise the school system’s reputation, and derivatively grow the social and economic wealth of the broader diverse community.

HARKENING TO AN UGLY TIME

Come November, I am voting “no” on the bond measure for the above-stated reasons. A “yes” vote condones your exclusion and disregard for the educational interests and social stability of those 1,100 children. The exclusion of poor minority children from the school system harkens back to an ugly time in Marietta history that won’t go unchallenged today.

I request that each school board member retract his or her support of the bond measure — and in doing so, send the community a message that education offers a hand up to every child, regardless of race or socioeconomic class. In other words, the board should honor its mission.

Ken Sprague Sr. is a retired math teacher at Marietta High School and former MHS “Teacher of the Year.

Comments
(10)
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pleez
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September 07, 2013
Oh, let's keep kids living in slums so all the teachers are employed?! Is Marietta City the only place to work, if you're a teacher??
Benita K
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September 06, 2013
I'm offended by your arrogance, Mr Sprague. Comparing the redevelopment of a crime ridden area of town to the civil rights movement? Those days were a trying time for my mother and father. They went through many hardships to get to get us out of the old way of thinking. All is see here is getting the kids and good people a better place to live and raise their kids. I've never have gone down Franklin Road before, but I do read the news and the crime that's in that area. Please don't cheapen the civil rights movement by comparing this to the ugly past. The poor folks in that area would be glad to find a safer place to live.
Molly H
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September 06, 2013
I lived on that road a year ago and could not wait to move out! Why do you WANT to keep people living in such a bad area of town, Mr. Sprague?

I see you keep throwing around the "school board is racist" idea, but have not shown it to be true- even a little. It's just you and your assumptions based on people that, I bet you have never even spoken to about this. PLEASE think of the people who live in the substandard housing and get them the help to move out ASAP. I would not want anyone- especially children living on a street like that. I heard gunshots the first week I moved in and could not wait to leave!
ForMarietta
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September 05, 2013
Mr. Sprague:

The School Board's and Council's support of this bond is not about race. It is not about the poor. It is about the other citizens of Marietta that choose to make this THEIR community.

You are sitting on the other side of the fence throwing bombs. If you had a problem with the council or the board than you could have qualified and run for office. If you really want to get involved than you should have done so. You chose to sit this one out so please do us all a favor and do so.

have I misread this?
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September 04, 2013
Is this man saying its all about race? That there is some kind of conspiracy on the part of the city to "racially cleanse" our school system? If this is what the writer means, I think he is dead wrong. I, too, am against the plan, but for different reasons. Why is it that everything about our lives has to be boiled down to "Race"? I am tired of it.
Martin II
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September 04, 2013
You make some good points, but the problem with the population of the Franklin Rd. area is not the color of their skin, country of origin, nor their wealth or lack of it.

It is a problem with the content of their character.

Maybe you should ride in a police car that patrols the area for a few nights. It is infested with crime and drugs. The corridor is long past its useful life as a safe place for low cost housing, much less an appropriate place to raise a child of any color.

Where did you raise your child(ren)? In a majority white neighborhood?

As for Marietta's history, long before you arrived, the city schools of Marietta accepted all children of color long before the county schools. And even now, many parents of color choose to pay tuition to send their children to Marietta instead of Cobb schools.

You are quickly becoming an anachronism with the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all others that want to perpetuate the black victim mentality.

john B
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September 04, 2013
I lived on Franklin Road until 2011. It's the worst place I've ever lived. There are other affordable places out there. No one kicked me out, Mr sprage- I ran as fast as I could!
Dakoda Fanny
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September 04, 2013
The day City officials listen to Ken Dakoda Sprague, is the day I move out to California!
PTR
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September 04, 2013
Mr. Sprague, I am a former Fort Hill resident. I lived there for 10 years surrounded by some of the most loving people. But also surrounded by drugs and bums. I now live in a new apartment surrounded by beauty, I thought I'd never see in my life. I am not woken up at night from fighting neighbors or the sound of police cars. I am happy that I was given an actual choice of where to live. Living in a place where crime and fighting seemed to be the norm, is no place to live. All the community building is good, but will not change things very much.

How can you want the poor people on Franklin Road to stay living in such bad conditions? Why not give them an option to move to a better place , like me? Until you have walked a mile in my shoes, you know nothing of what you say.
miss D
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September 05, 2013
God bless you- thank you for speaking out. People like Mr. Sprague continue to say it's about race even though they have not a clue. It's only about race to them! What have you, Mr Sprague, done to help the people on Franklin Road? Maybe they need better options on where to live? Think of what life is like for the people over there and less about you wanting to keep 1965 alive in 2013! - for goodness sake. Most people today care more about moving out crime, drugs and prostitution than what color their skin is. Live in today, why don't you.
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